Taronga and the Department of Family and Community Services today helped welcome 29 young people from the Burbangana and Walanmarra programs after their epic 490km ‘Shoulder to Shoulder’ relay walk from Taronga Western Plains Zoo in Dubbo to Taronga Zoo, Sydney.
The walkers were met with great applause as they made their way up Bradley’s Head Road from the Taronga Zoo wharf, marking the final leg of their long journey on the eve of Taronga’s 100th birthday day.
Shoulder to Shoulder took place over two weeks and traced ancient songlines across country, with Taronga staff, volunteers and the young people all undertaking a journey of discovery, exploration, self reflection, strength and achievement.
Throughout the trip, walkers stayed at local schools, campgrounds and community halls along the way and were welcomed at every stop.
“The walking bit was the easy part,” said Aboriginal Special Projects Coordinator, Nardi Simpson, “I think that the rhythm of walking has a really grounding effect on everybody, so we were happiest walking.”
“We’ve seen young people take initiative, be supportive and understand their place in a wonderfully connected world. Each one has given us beautiful gifts every day.”
“During the walk we were told that we had travelled the same route that people had done for thousands of years. For me that was very special. For the young people it’s about going to new places, in some cases seeing the beach for the first time,” said Nardi.
For thousands of years Aboriginal people walked the land for celebrations and ceremonies.
Taronga CEO, Cameron Kerr, said: “The Shoulder to Shoulder walk is a powerful and deeply significant way to help celebrate Taronga’s 100th birthday.”
“The walk has been a lot of fun, but has certainly forged a lifetime of connections for these young people.”
“This is believed to be the first journey of this type since white settlement, and is therefore an incredibly significant event.”
“It was a very powerful experience joining the walk and seeing the young people connecting with culture. I truly feel this experience is something everyone who participated will cherish for the rest of their lives,” said Mr Kerr.
Shoulder to Shoulder is proudly supported by Bunnings Warehouse, Berkel Constructions, Australia Hammer Supplies, Midcity Windows, Rebel, ARA and Ritera Electrical.