Last week the Shoulder to Shoulder walkers completed their epic journey from Taronga Western Plains Zoo in Dubbo to Taronga Zoo in Sydney as part of the Taronga Zoo Centenary celebrations.
The Shoulder to Shoulder walk took place over two weeks and traced ancient songlines across country, with Taronga staff, volunteers and the young people 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,” Aboriginal Special Projects co-ordinator, and Shoulder to Shoulder walker, Nardi Simpson said.
“I think that the rhythm of walking has a really grounding effect on everybody, so we were happiest walking.”
On the final day the group started the morning ceremony at sunrise at Manly.
The young people were delighted to be joined by AFL legends Adam Goodes and Michael O'Loughlin on the cultural tour that followed.
The group visited a number of significant cultural sites around the harbour before hoping off at the Taronga Zoo wharf.
“Walking up the hill to the zoo’s entrance was amazing, we were welcomed by staff, family and friends who lined the street and clapped us along our final steps,” Ms Simpson said.
An engraved message stick was presented to Taronga Director & Chief Executive Cameron Kerr as a gift to cement the relationship between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people for the next 100 years.
“Overall this experience has been wonderful and I’ve really taken from the whole experience how wonderful and generous people are when they are working together to achieve a goal,” he said.
“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,” Mr Kerr said.
“I really hope the young people got a sense of their strength and achievement from the journey, and that they are closer to their culture and have a stronger connection with country as a result.”
“They are all wonderful young people and I hope they feel happy and strong from now on, and can move through life knowing they have made this amazing achievement,” Ms Simpson said.
Shoulder to Shoulder was supported by Bunnings Warehouse, Berkel Constructions, Australia Hammer Supplies, Midcity Windows, Rebel, ARA and Ritera Electrical.