Eden Canoes is an initiative to enable individuals and communities to flourish through the activity of building, decorating and paddle touring Canoes.
The program encourages both participation and relationship building by its novelty, variety of activities, uniform progress and by a clear reward for effort.
Students enter the program with a certain curiosity as building a canoe seems an unlikely prospect. This driving curiosity quickly gives way to surprise as the canoe’s shape is complete on day two. Students, working in teams, easily engage with the construction process as the variety of tasks offer ‘something for everyone’. Unity and appreciation of one another grows as even seemingly small tasks aid construction.
Playful rivalry between canoe building teams can be heard but as all the canoes need to reach a daily construction target there develops a whole group camaraderie. This developing unity and interpersonal appreciation sees the label of ‘I’ as ‘student, ‘staff’ or ‘instructor’ dissolve leaving ‘us’ as canoes builders. Shoulder to shoulder conversations develop and deepen.
Eden Canoes employ Indigenous mentors who are trained canoe builders. They ensure that the canoes reach their daily construction target but they are also gifted in creating harmonious teams and encouraging participation. Our Project Manager hovers between groups to encourage this process.
The construction process is quick and tasks many. There is little time for boredom. The first week concludes with joyful launch and ‘test paddle’ on a sheltered inland waterway. This is both a clear reward for effort but also a taster to the adventures that await on the paddle tour days of the second week. Achievement is contagious. As students construct something in unity with others it reinforces, or creates, the possibility that they can successfully complete more complex tasks and that working with others for shared aspirations is possible. Horizons and Community broaden.
The Eden Canoes program is for everyone but it is gently and intentionally Indigenous. Canoes, thought different from traditional canoes (Bunbang Kurija), are similarly constructed. Our Indigenous mentors assist in exploring and promoting Indigenous decorations. Students become lost in self expression as they paint Indigenous designs on the big canvas of a canoe. We invite Elders to visit. Our paddle tours explore sights of cultural significance. Our canoe shed is a Cultural Safe place with Indigenous art, symbols, words and the Aboriginal flag prominently displayed. Most importantly Eden Canoes is proudly governed in dialogue by a consortium of Local Indigenous Organisations. Though all these organisations are valuable voices in shaping and developing the program, Eden Canoes has a special relationship with Eden Marine High (EMH) and Twofold Aboriginal Corporation (TAC). EMH champion our program and ensure that Eden Canoes is a safe place for Indigenous Students. TAC provides valuable cultural advice, organises the catering and are the location of our celebrations.
The program works for the participants on these many levels. The program also works tangentially to raise awareness about the vibrant and enduring indigenous culture in our area. As beautifully decorated Eden Canoes are seen on our Canoe trailer and as groups of students joyfully tour their canoes on the waterways from Merimbula to Kiah there is pride and belonging strengthened within the students and the Aboriginal community, and admiration and affirmation expressed from the wider community.
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