There were big kids, little kids.
Kids with heads down taking in new information or consolidating old knowledge.
Kids asking questions, putting their minds to maths problems, or puzzling over new words.
There was a quiet buzz of concentrated effort; of purpose.
It was a Tuesday night and the Gowola Homework Club was in full swing.
This is just one part of the many activities at Rumbalara Football Netball Club.
Gowola, organised by Mercy Access, recognises the importance of education, of engaging young people in a way that celebrates culture and pride in Aboriginality.
So every Tuesday during school term, students make their way to Rumbalara Football Netball Club. Buses pick them up from school, parents drop them off or they walk there.
Their ages range from Prep to Year 10.
Some children may be working on projects or homework set by their class teachers, others are working on literacy or numeracy tasks.
And then there is language. The re-emergence of an ancient language that holds old knowledge and culture. Yorta Yorta Language. A source of pride and identity.
Language that is part of the name of this special club, Gowola — meaning mercy or kindness.
Intertwined in all this is a common goal — to learn.
It is this goal that is reflected in the parents’ desire to have their children attend Gowola; in their keenness to register them early in the year to provide additional support for their work in the classroom; and in the request by parents to have their Prep and Year 1 children included in the program, resulting in a widening of the homework club age range.
Education is important.
With the homework support provided by volunteers — university students, school students, teachers who come to Rumbalara Football Netball Club after their day teaching, and other community members who have some background in education — and the administrative support provided by Mercy Access, there is a sense of purpose and commitment in the room.
Underneath the many premiership flags and with the stories of past generations on the walls of the clubhouse, the children are learning not only literacy and numeracy skills to help them negotiate their way in the wider world, they are also learning about their culture.
And it is this aspect of the Gowola Homework Club that is the key to its success.
Knowledge of culture and language are crucial to a sense of belonging, community and well-being.
There is a separate In-School Program as well.
Volunteers go into the school one morning per week and support students in class, again at parental request.
The importance of learning, culture and community are also part of the Bunyma Lotjpa (Make and Talk) program.
Re-starting in term four at Rumbalara Football Club on Thursday mornings, Bunyma Lotjpa is for members of the Aboriginal community to come together to yarn while painting or weaving with local grasses.
Again supported by Mercy Access and guided by an Aboriginal artist, this program is another opportunity to explore culture, this time through art and craft and sharing stories.
It is the importance of culture, community and belonging that echoes through both the Gowola Homework Club and Bunyma Lotjpa.
At the end of the homework session there is a sudden burst of energy as the Gowola Homework Club kids tumble out the door in winter, bursting on to the footy field keen to run off some energy.
At other times of the year they excitedly bounce about as they talk with friends and grab their belongings and head home.
For those leaving Bunyma Lotjpa there is chatting, but with perhaps a little less energy than the young people.
But there is still the connection through culture that binds both programs together.
If you would like to know more about the Gowola Homework Club or are interested in volunteering, phone Mercy Access on 0428996975 or email [email protected]