In 2005, a group of Jewish students set out to establish a meaningful relationship with a First Nations community. Recognising the incongruence of their lack of connection with First Nations Australia despite calling Australia home, they were introduced to community Elders in the predominantly-Aboriginal communities of Toomelah and Boggabilla. Community members identified school holiday programs as a useful service that young Jewish adults could deliver while simultaneously building relationships between our two communities.
This is how the program ‘Derech Eretz’ was born. The Hebrew term ‘Derech Eretz’ translates to ‘the way of the land’. As a concept, however, it embodies the idea of conduct that contributes to decency, respect, and social awareness.
Stand Up volunteers have returned to Toomelah and Boggabilla each year to facilitate fun and engaging school holiday programs. Activities include sport, arts and crafts, games and outdoor activities such as swimming. The program has now evolved and also includes Jewish participants connecting with community adults and Elders. Jewish participants also engage in informal educational sessions on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander histories, cultures and justice to bridge the blindspots of Australia’s mainstream curriculum.
Derech Eretz invites volunteers to build rapport with kids, encourage positive peer support dynamics and build the foundation for an intergenerational partnership with the people of Toomelah and Boggabilla.
The next Derech Eretz is happening 15-24 January 2023.
For all questions, please contact [email protected].