St Peter Claver College Students Immerse Themselves in Cherbourg Service-Learning Experience

For the fifth year in a row, St Peter Claver College Year 12 students have spent time getting to know and contribute to the First Nations communities of Cherbourg and Murgon.

The service-learning experience took place from Thursday 9 to Saturday 11 May 2024 with the three-day, two-night program devoted to assisting with the ongoing maintenance of the St Peter Claver Chapel; building meaningful connections with the community; and broadening students' awareness and understanding of First Nations culture and history.

Co-ordinator and Pastoral Leader, Daniel Meehan said the experience was a chance for Year 12 students to give back to others through the act of service.

“My hope is that the students who attended, understand the importance of service to others in our community, not expecting anything in return," he said. “I also hope they walk away with a better understanding of the Stolen Generations and share this with their family and friends as we work towards reconciliation in our country."

On the first day, students spent two hours of service in the gardens of the St Peter Claver Chapel in Cherbourg. This is an important community facility and is regularly used for services, funerals and other celebrations.

On the second day, the Year 12s served a Mother's Day breakfast for staff, students and families of St Joseph's Catholic Primary School in Murgon. They played handball and engaged with members of the community. For the rest of the day, they assisted classroom teachers with sporting games and art lessons.

Mr Meehan said, “Members of the Cherbourg and Murgon community regularly comment on the great work done by students each year and the sad goodbyes at the end of our time reflect the community's gratitude for our positive impact."

Year 12 student Ashleigh Coghill said the experience was a profound and eye-opening one.

“Walking to the Ration Shed I felt a number of emotions – sadness, curiosity but also a sense of calm energy," she said. “The Curators at the Ration Shed have turned something so connected to suffering and oppression into a place of education, learning and culture. Being Indigenous, unfortunately for me mistreatment shown at the Ration Shed wasn't surprising. However, I saw that it had struck a chord with many of the other people around me."

Year 12 student Alkira Saltner said she took part in the experience to learn more and be better able to express her culture and heritage to her peers.

“My biggest take away was when Uncle Eric told us his story of what Cherbourg means to him, how he grew up there, what Cherbourg was like before it was called 'Cherbourg'," she said.

The Cherbourg service-learning experience is just one way in which the College promotes and offers a well-rounded and holistic education that includes real world learning, and practical and immersive experiences for students.

We sincerely thank Daniel Meehan, Gloria Wilson, Alice Dwyer and Eneli Pakau for their generous contribution of time and their support of the project.

​© Brisbane Catholic Education, St Peter Claver College.​​​