Seven Indigenous teenagers from Bega travelled to Bithry Inlet, the mouth of Wapengo Lagoon, to stooge around in handcrafted and painted canoes they had built, while equally building themselves in the process.
The five-day camping trip near Tanja was described as "proper deadly," an Indigenous description synonymous with excellent, by one of the participants, while another asked, "Are we in the Barrier Reef or what?" as they glided through the crystal sapphire waters.
Robbie Townsend, a community connector and a proud Djiringanj, Ngarigo and Jerrinja man, said the camp allowed traditional owners the chance to build something they could use, the community could use, and they could be proud of.
"What today was, going down the lake and spending time with our mob down there, and some elders came down and community, it really brings us all together," Mr Townsend said.
"These days are the days that make me realise I just love what I do, and I love these kids and I just want the best for them."
Each timber canoe had a stitch and glue construction whereby plywood sheets were sewn together with black cable ties, seams were glued with epoxy resin over a fiberglass bandage, and poured foam was used for buoyancy.
Reverend Michael Palmer, the project manager for Eden Canoes, said there was more to creating a canoe than a list of boat-building ingredients, and called it a horizon-broadening experience.
"You just need some enthusiasm, some patience, a bit of teamwork, and follow some fairly rudimentary instructions, and before you know it, you've got a canoe," Rev Palmer said.
"We're joining bits of timber together to create a canoe, but in reality we're just creating opportunities for people to be connected.
"They're building relationships, not just with one another and with the environment, but they're also building connections about what their own futures might be."
He said the program enabled participants to build something, create something and then enjoy that something in the wider world, becoming the tinder to a spark as they ponder the possibilities of their futures.
Djiringanj artist Robben Dixon guided the seven teenagers as they painted their canoes with indigenous designs representative of the names given to their builds, including Ngadyoo (water) and Warree (paddle).
One canoe was painted with the Aboriginal flag and 'Warree' written in black over a red background, while the Ngadyoo canoe was painted in blue, featured shells, connected waterhole symbols made from concentric circles and wavy lines, and yarning circles to represent learning, respect and knowledge.
The camp was a collaboration between Bega Aboriginal Land Council and Eden Canoes, backed by Twofold Aboriginal Corporation and Anglicare NSW South, NSW West and ACT.