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The Aranda Tribe Ride for Pride
Every ANZAC Day we stop to remember our fallen soldiers but for true dedication to the ANZAC spirit, nothing can beat the Aranda Tribe Ride for Pride.
Ntaria is a small, remote Aboriginal community in the Aranda country of central Australia, and like many remote communities, Ntaria School faced poor student attendance. However, according to Ntaria School principal Cath Greene, the unlikely key to increasing both attendance and respect for the ANZACs was introducing horses into the school curriculum.
“We introduced horse training in 2012 as a way to get kids re-engaged in school,” Cath said.
“School attendance has improved and it is now part of the school curriculum, with students using the horse programme to learn literacy and numeracy skills. Students are writing stories about horses as part of their schoolwork and some students are even filming their rides as part of their course requirements.”
As the students’ abilities in horse riding and caring improved, they met Aboriginal man Raymond Finn, whose grandfather served in the Australian Light Horse Infantry. Raymond highlighted the role that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander soldiers played in the Light Horse and the students decided they wanted to honour the role of Indigenous soldiers in the Light Horse Infantry in World War I.
As a result, the Aranda Tribe Ride for Pride was born, with 26 students travelling over 120 kilometres from Ntaria to Alice Springs to ride in the Alice Springs ANZAC Day Parade.
The eight day journey involves students taking it in turns to ride the horses or walk, camping along the way. The students were accompanied by Lofty Katakarinja and Jeremy Moketarinja, two male cultural mentors and female mentor Melanie Inkamala, and while the students have been greatly affected by their involvement in the Ride for Pride, Cath sees that everyone in Ntaria has been moved by the programme.
“I’m seeing students increasingly treat each other as equals as this programme has gone on but it is hard to describe the massive level of pride felt by the whole community,” Cath said.
Chris Barr (Trainer at Ntaria School): Raymond Finn came out to visit me, asking if there were any young fellas interested in riding with him from Hermannsburg to Alice Springs. Ended up, we had twenty students and a dozen horses. The horses that we trapped and broken in we used on the ride and half a dozen of those horses were used in the march on ANZAC Day, so we call it the ANZAC Ride.
Student 1: Everyone got invited to the precinct to farewell the riders.
Student 2: First we have a blessing. And then we have a choir. And then we said goodbye to our families and then we headed out.
Chris Barr: Some of the students had ridden horses before but there’s other students that hadn’t and there were two or three of the young ladies that participated in the ride, they had never ridden a horse before.
One of them, the first day she was on, before she even got on, she was in tears. She didn’t want to get on a horse. She was just absolutely petrified. We managed to get her on and I held her hand while we walked her around. The next day she came out she was the first person ready with all her gear on to get on and ride the horse And she participated in the ride and it was just the, I think, the self-confidence of all the students, particularly that young girl; was just phenomenal.
We use the horses as a tool to get life skills across to the students. They are thinking, feeling animal and you can get hurt when you’re working with them. The horses pick up on their body language really quickly because that’s how the horses communicate themselves. The students have got to be really aware of how they’re feeling themselves. They have got to present themselves in a calm manner, so they can approach the horses, so the horses will stand there so they can start working with them to do things.
Charlie Cooper (VET teacher): Seeing where they were at the start of the year, where a lot of them had no horse riding experience, hadn’t worked as a team or done any of that employing life skills sort of stuff, to where they got to by the end of the ride, which was working as a team and doing all that stuff together, and always helping. It started off it was almost impossible to get them to do anything and at the end you didn’t have to ask the question. It was just “this is what we do, this is how we get stuff done”. And it was a really amazing thing to watch. and to be able to get to know those kids a bit better over those nine days was phenomenal.
Chris Barr: We rode the horses from the showgrounds to the telegraph station and that was going to be our base to get ready for the march on the Saturday morning. So come Saturday morning we could hear the ceremony up on ANZAC Hill and Pat came over and I’m lying in my swag and I said “Good morning Pat” and he said “no it’s not” and I said “yes it is” and he said “no it’s not, the horses are gone.”
So, it was panic stations. We all got up everybody up and we were all out trying to find the horses. We rang for a helicopter to come in to see if they could locate them because we had been out looking for them for half, three-quarters of an hour by then.
Just as he was about to hit the air we got word that the horses were down by the front gate. I think that was about quarter to eight and we were supposed to be ready to ride and leave by eight o’clock to be in Alice Springs to start the march at nine. So it was high drama on Saturday morning. after all we’d gone through to have that happen was pretty scary.
Helper: Five of us dressed quickly and then the kids had to jump in the bus and we had to jump on the horses and just strut along into town. Great timing, we just made it. And then we started marching.
Student 3: Others were clapping and were saying “where you from?” We said “we’re from Hermannsburg”. “We saw you on Facebook.” And we were proud, Chris was proud and everyone was proud.
Student 4: In the start we felt shame but when we went to the Mall, it was fun and I felt proud.
Student 5: Proud.
Student 6: My family was smiling at me and being proud.
Student 7: At first I felt shame. All the people were staring at us, screaming my name. Yeah, that was good fun.
Student 8: I was a bit shame but I was up for it. Pretty good.
Student 9: I was really proud. It was the first time I was doing it, 2015. It was my first time.
Student 10: I want to be a station worker. Be like Chris or my grandfather.
Charlie Cooper: From coming in at the start of the year and feeling very isolated and not knowing how to interact properly with them to where it is now, I couldn’t speak highly enough about what that ride allowed not only them to achieve but what it’s given to me as well.
Helper: It was scary because I never done this before. Scary but happy at the same time, excited.