The Mungo Youth Project is holding its third biennial conference in the Willandra Lakes region World Heritage area on the 7th to 9th of September 2011 at Mungo National Park the site where Mungo Lady and Mungo Man were found. Mungo Lady and Mungo Man are the most important human remains ever found in Australia and their discovery re-wrote the ancient story of this land and its people and sent shock-waves around the world. These 42,000 year old ritual burials are some of the oldest remains of modern humans (Homo sapiens) yet found outside of Africa. Mungo Lady is the oldest known cremation in the world, representing the early emergence of humanity's spiritual beliefs.
Mungo Lady and Mungo Man are particularly special to their Aboriginal descendants who still live around the Willandra Lakes area. The Paakantji, Ngyiampaa and Mutthi Mutthi people are proud of what the ancient remains prove of their endurance in the land and survival from the distant past. Many believe that Mungo Man and Mungo Lady returned to teach something to all people.
The Mungo Youth Project grew out of the Mungo Festival held in 2006 to celebrate25 years of world heritage listing and over 40,000 years of indigenous culture in the Willandra Lakes area World Heritage region. The project underpins and honours the traditional owner's aspiration to engage and educate their young people in the culture, conservation, education and management of the World Heritage area.
Over 200 students, predominately indigenous, from towns around the Willandra Lakes region World Heritage Area, will converge on a property adjacent to Mungo National Park, to teach each other about topics relating to the deep history of Australia, (that they have studied over the previous six months) and to participate in explorations in this significant and culturally rich area.
Students from 22 participating schools from Victoria and New South Wales, including Wilcannia, Menindee, Dareton, Mildura, Dubbo and Broken Hill, will stay over the three days along with teachers, elders, scientists, land holders, national park and world heritage staff, role models, mentors, volunteers and special guests.
It is significant that scientists come together to work with the young people as it is a critical component of the event to engage the students in a hands on exploration into how science informs today's understanding of history and culture.
Over the three days the students teach each other what they have learnt about culture and history, engage in archaeological exploration, learn language and culture with traditional owners, become aware of the pastoral history and gain insights into training and employment with National Parks Discovery Rangers.
An important element of the project is increasing self esteem and a commitment to good health and to this end, role models work with the students and special guests from the Jimmy Little Foundation's Thumbs Up program and the Live Longer Campaign, will work alongside the caterers to ensure a creative approach to good eating and a celebration of what is good and healthy in the community.
School surveys from the 2009 event have indicated that through their involvement with the project, students are more engaged with their culture and with education.
The concept has been developed by the Mungo Youth Project Committee and together with supporters, sponsors, volunteers and stakeholders; we are developing a powerful and important model for Australian cultural and history education.
The Mungo Youth Project is gaining wide attention for being a successful model of student engagement with culture and education and expressions of interest have come from indigenous representatives from other World Heritage areas in Australia.
The 2011 event will be hosted by the traditional owners and broadcast live into 40 remote NSW schools and into Alaska by NSW Distance Education. With guests such as Her Excellency Prof Marie Bashir AC CVO, Governor of New South Wales; Stephen Albert of Bran Nue Dae fame; patron Professor Jim Bowler; local Indigenous solicitor Rudolph Kirby and other role models, the Conference is set to make a positive impact on the lives of over 200 indigenous kids.