Australia – Volunteering in Far North Queensland 2008

While working at KPMG I was given a fantastic opportunity to work with a leading K-12 Indigenous School (Djarragun College) in far north Queensland (near Cairns) for 2 months. This was part of a program called Indigenous Enterprises Program (IEP), the program has since been rebranded to ‘Jawun’.

Our group of around 20 volunteers came from leading corporate organisations (Banks, Consulting and Technology firms) to help various Indigenous organizations build their capacity to grow and succeed within the broader economy. My task was to conduct a written assessment of the IT infrastructure at the school and the report I delivered was used by Cisco to help inform what hardware they were going to donate to the school

Before the work assignment, we had a week long off road 4wd and camping experience going deep into Cape York Peninsula. It was a special experience that I’ll never forget.


– Off road driving – we all had to take a one day defensive 4wd driving course. After a couple of days driving it was easy to see why this was needed. Traveling at high speed on dusty, windy roads is no joke! Among the dangers are wild pigs running into the road, oncoming traffic (including so called road-trains who won’t stop for anything), fine grained dust that hovers in the air for minutes once disturbed (dangerous when you are traveling in a column) and deceptive corners with loose gravel. Fortunately, as it turned out the most hairy part of the drive was crossing a couple of rivers which were a little over a meter deep.

– Crocodiles at night – our guide told us not to camp to close to the riverbed because of the local ‘crocs’. We initially thought he was joking, but at night we walked with him the 50 meters or so down to the river with a few high powered torches, and scanned the river to revealed 3 sets of eyes reflecting the light back at us! These crocs were completely silent. The guide told us there were probably more either underwater or facing away. A couple of the girls in our group freaked out after this, but our guide explained to us that unless you are close to the water, the crocs really are pretty harmless.

– Massive termite mounds – there were thousands of what appeared to be vertical towers of mud going up upwards of 5 meters. Our guide explained some of the technology that humans are now aware of in these mounds, some seriously impressive stuff. Check here and here for some more info.

– Full view of the milky way – Living in big Cities for quite a few years now, it is easy to forget how beautiful this is. In Cape York, we are many hundreds of kilometers away from even small towns and the view of the milky way is spectacular.

– Time at Djarragun College – I got to know many local Indigenous children who had the same energy and curious spark you might expect to see at most Australia schools. However many of them had some pretty horrendous family stories and had to overcome hurdles just to be allowed to study at school. I also spoke with the teachers, all of who had great passion and enthusiasm to make a positive difference, but were facing uphill battles to get full acceptance within the broader Indigenous communities where the kids came from. Before this trip I thought I knew how to solve some of the core problems facing Indigenous Communities but after delving deeper into it, I realized how complex the situation is – this could easily be another blog or two just on this topic.


2008_nthqld1 2008_nthqld2 2008_nthqld3 2008_nthqld4