In November last year, Anglicare Rural Chaplain, Rev’d Michael Palmer, coordinated a community project to empower Aboriginal children from Eden Marine High School on the NSW south coast through a canoe building project.
Over five days, six young people of different ages worked together to build, decorate and eventually paddle their three canoes in the local creek.
Michael sees his role as helping people to thrive through creating healthy community connections. The canoe project is one of the initiatives he’s working on to achieve this.
“I’m an amateur canoe builder and have built several boats over the years,” explains Michael. “As you work on [projects] like this together you don’t just build a canoe; you’re building relationships. You don’t just build a boat; you get the chance to use the boat and to explore the local environment. When we took the boats out, we had Indigenous Elders come with us to share some of the local history.”
The project was a community collaboration between the school, local Elders, professional boat builders and local businesses. For Michael, there’s a real joy in seeing young people who may feel disconnected from their traditional culture feeling a greater sense of personal identity through an activity like this.
“It can help them rewrite the narratives of their lives,” says Rev’d Michael.
Picture below: Rev’d Michael Palmer, Anglicare Rural Chaplain, with young people who participated in the Eden Canoe Project.