Olly, the Virtual Reality Bus Experience update August/September
4 pm and about to enter an oasis. We are one thousand two hundred kilometres north-west of Alice Springs and stopped at the top of a small rise looking down at the remaining two kilometres of a particular bone-jarring piece of dirt road. The 3700 km journey so far from Cairns has cost us two front shock absorbers; a custom built front left spring, two 80 litre water tank racks and cancellations of 3 remote schools as a result of delays.
Limping slowly downhill into the tiny isolated community called Pigeon Hole, Olly the trusty 4x4 and his 2 crew are warmly greeted by school principal Anne and a cacophony of curious and excited children.
In our travels across Australia delivering this unique virtual reality project, we have seen cities, towns and small communities of widely varying degrees of hospitality, cleanliness, pride and vitality. In its own way, Pigeon Hole positively expresses all these qualities.
However, is it because of the eight-kilometer stretch of a palm and gumtree lined billabong, deep and teaming with barramundi and turtle, or the mesmerising sunsets and prolific birdlife that has created this place of cheerfulness and goodwill? As equally prominent is the harsh reality of isolation, difficult access, the prohibitive cost of living, limited health and emergency services, and of course that other "luxury" enjoyed by mainstream living - entertainment.
On departing Pigeon Hole, we reflected on our new experience. The children were rowdy, boisterous and sometimes cheeky. In fact when about 20 kids aged 6 -16 turned up at the basketball court (where we were camped) at 8 pm, to run, play, shout and scream, we were equally surprised and relieved when at 9 pm they magically "disappeared". Silence. Not a peep, till our VRE sessions starting 8 am next morning. We were to learn later that this is normal here.
We shared another lesson in safe and productive community control at Pigeon Hole that is jointly maintained by parents and an active Night Patrol team.
Were they satisfied with our visit of a difference? We have been asked to return for a full week next time to share some of enVizions future programs and further utilise the VRE teams complimentary professional skill sets related to employment and training, alcohol and other drug education and music workshops. Our response was a resounding "yes" - with a hopeful proposition to any philanthropic helicopter owners out there: help!
A big thank you also goes to the communities of Ampilatwatja, Yirarra College, and Timber Creek / Bulla Camp schools for your hospitality and goodwill. Also, a huge apologie to Lajamanu, Amanbidgi and Manyallaluk schools as a result of cancellations to your programs.
PHOTO 1 AILERON COMMUNITY SCULPTURE NT
PHOTO 2 PAULINE GIVEN ROYAL TOUR PIGEON HOLE BILLABONG