Published on: 2 August 2013

When Hadley Shearn, father of Harrison (Year 9), signed up to participate for Service in Action (SIA) at the Yipirinya School in Alice Springs, his aim was to offer his services to the school and share the experience with his son. However, he found he received much more in return.

Yipirinya School is an independent Aboriginal school whose connection with Christ Church dates back to 2008. This year marked the sixth trip to the community with 11 people, including Years 8 and 9 boys and fathers and staff, offering their services inside and outside the classroom.

Mr Shearn said the highlight of the 10-day experience was learning of the deep family ties that Aboriginal people have with one another and their sensory awareness. “Also, the strength of character of so many of the children in the face of such hardship and the joy of seeing the loving support around them at Yipirinya School,” he said.

For Harrison, it was all about the children. “The happiness they have and then give to you, when you are playing, talking, sitting or colouring in with them… brings all the gifts in the world,” he said.

Harrison was amazed to see some of community’s living conditions. “They are trashed, dirty, run-down and the Government does nothing, or when they do something, there’s no effort put in to keep them in good condition or make the kids go to school,” he said. “The same goes for the school. It needs more funding to continue to run properly but the Government argues and argues and in the end, the school ends up with a miniscule amount of money compared to what it needs.”

Mr Shearn said the SIA journey to Alice Springs was a great opportunity for like-minded people, under the guidance and ethos of Christ Church and Canon Richard Pengelley, to experience a rite of passage with their sons. “Between the service work, the tour of the sacred heart of Australia, and Richard’s guidance and mystery tours, there were some amazing experiences to be shared and remembered,” he said.

“It enables you to honestly bond with your son, alone, in your own time and in an amazing, awe-inspiring environment. The sheer vastness of the land and the size and beauty of the places you visit, shows you both how little you are and how important family is.”