Eden Canoes Initiative stitches and glues community together

Eden Marine High student Dre Wicks hard at work painting his canoe. Photo: Leah Szanto
Eden Marine High student Dre Wicks hard at work painting his canoe. Photo: Leah Szanto

A group of enterprising Eden students are about to launch a flotilla of canoes they have spent the past fortnight building and painting themselves.

The two-week canoe building project engaged Indigenous Year 10 students from Eden Marine High School.

The six participating students have been supported to construct stitch-and-glue canoes from scratch, and while it has been an initiative for the individuals involved, it has also been a collaboration with the broader community.

Tucked away in Eden, the main project site has been an absolute hive of activity, with numerous organisations and community members encouraging and inspiring the students as their impressive creations have taken shape.

Eden Canoes project manager Michael Palmer said Ossie Cruse, Nathan Lygon, the 'Aunties' and Katungul had all been to visit the workshop.

HMAS Supply crew have also made the most of the opportunity to connect with the community and get involved in activities while docked in their ceremonial home port.

Eden Canoes project manager Michael Palmer with HMAS Supply crew LS Cole, AB Nelson and AB Tomsana. Photo: Leah Szanto

Eden Canoes project manager Michael Palmer with HMAS Supply crew LS Cole, AB Nelson and AB Tomsana. Photo: Leah Szanto

Mr Palmer said the Year 10 students were thoroughly immersed in the project, and the involvement of key members of the Indigenous community has been an integral component of that.

The first few days of the project saw students cut panels from bracing ply and sew them together before sealing the inside of the canoes.

"It was a big incentive for the students knowing we would launch the canoes on Nullica River mouth at the end of the first week," Mr Palmer said.

It's been nice to have a break from the school environment but still be learning

Eden Year 10 student Mataya Barber

Student Dre Wicks said the project had been thrilling so far.

"The fact that I have used two sheets of plywood to make this!"

Mataya Barber said this is the first time she has ever done any woodwork.

"It's been heaps of fun and I've learned so many new skills," she said.

"It was great when we got to cut off the zip ties and sand it all down, then it looked like a canoe.

"It's been nice to have a break from the school environment but still be learning," she said.

Plywood canoe building uses basic hand skills and the boat comes together fairly fast, incentivising the students as they see steady progression towards the completed canoe. Photo: Leah Szanto

Plywood canoe building uses basic hand skills and the boat comes together fairly fast, incentivising the students as they see steady progression towards the completed canoe. Photo: Leah Szanto

Now a rural chaplain for Anglicare, Mr Palmer has a background in suicide prevention and said suicide is disproportionately high in Indigenous communities.

"Projects like this give hope and focus," he said.

The initiative has been a broad collaboration and got off the ground with grant funding through Vinnies and in-kind support from Campbell Page, Twofold Aboriginal Corporation, Mica Studios, Eden Marine High School and many individuals.

On Thursday the students will launch their finished products on Pambula River and on Friday, the last day of the project, they will paddle down the Yowaka River to the fish traps, before a concert at Jigamy where their canoes will be showcased.

The canoes were given a test launch at Nullica River mouth prior to being painted. Photo: Michael Palmer

The canoes were given a test launch at Nullica River mouth prior to being painted. Photo: Michael Palmer

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