The sky was black as black and the camp fire crackled as 200 people gathered on the bed of the Todd River, 5km outside of Alice Springs. Stories were spun, songs sung and the smell of roasting kangaroo tail filled the air.
It was a typical chilly night under the outback sky but for eight students and two teachers from Green Point Christian College on the NSW Central Coast, it was an experience they will not forget.
The Central Coast group spent six days in the outback meeting up with students from St Philip’s College in Alice Springs and together celebrating 100 years since the establishment of the Australian Inland Mission (AIM) and the ongoing work of Frontier Services.
“It was an awesome experience to go to the outback, to get to know the St Philip’s kids and make connections with them, to learn about their lives and also to learn about what John Flynn has done,” said Year 11 student Katelyn Manson, 16.
Fellow student Will Capps, 16, was just as thrilled by the experience: “We all came back so excited, we just want to go back and do it all again.”
Throughout the week, the students braved a bunch of outdoor adventure activities in the natural area surrounding Alice Springs, including bike riding at Simpson’s Gap, hiking through the West MacDonnell Ranges and a precarious 30m abseil at Birthday Gap the following day.
“I think most of us were pretty nervous, but we knew we had to do it. We never get to do things like this. We just said ‘we can do this, we are in Alice Springs!’” said Katelyn.
The evening spent on the Todd River was a special Centenary Dinner organised by St Philip’s College and attended by the Uniting Church President Rev Alistair Macrae, Rosemary Young, National Director of Frontier Services, and others from the Alice Springs community.
Learning about the work of Flynn, the AIM and Frontier Services was an eye opener for the students.
“We realised what it’s like for people in outback and remote areas and how different it is to here on the coast where we have a local hospital, police and other services nearby to rely on,” said Katelyn.
“It really opened our eyes and hearts to life in remote Australia, and it has encouraged me to get to know more about the people there. It was such a great experience.”
The outback hospitality of the St Philip’s students also left a lasting impression.
“When we got out to St Philip’s, it didn’t feel like we were from the Coast. It felt like we were a part of them – like we’d always been there with them,” said Will.
Both agree that the friendships formed between the students will continue for a long time.