Last week 15 participants from Souths Cares Deadly Youth Mentoring Program, Nanga Mai Marri (Dream Big) Program and Liverpool Opportunity Hub attended a Girls Leadership and Cultural Camp at Lake Macquarie, on beautiful Awabakal Country.

The theme for the camp was ‘Empowering Women and Female Leadership’, with all 15 participants selected based on their commitment to their education, engagement with mentoring programs and their leadership attributes.

The group left Sydney early on Tuesday morning, checked-in to their accommodation at the Ingenia Holidays Lake Macquarie, had fish and chips for lunch before heading to Irukandji Shark and Ray Encounters.

The girls embraced the opportunity to swim with Reef Sharks and Zebra Sharks; getting out of their comfort zones as they swam alongside the beautiful ocean animals. After swimming with the sharks, the group spent some time hand-feeding String-rays and then participated in a workshop about ocean conservation and environmental sustainability.

Bella Reimann is a participant in the Liverpool Opportunity Hub and explained swimming with the sharks was an impactful experience.


I’ve always wanted to overcome my fears and step out of my comfort zone. Having the opportunity to swim with sharks has been one of the most amazing experiences I have ever had.

The girls returned to the Ingenia Holiday Park and made the most of the great facilities on-site with a swim in the pool, before working together to prepare a big BBQ dinner. After dinner, the group reflected on their first day together and shared their experiences and learnings.

Day two commenced with an early start, with the girls watching the sun rise over the lake with their mentors. After breakfast, the group headed to Swansea Beach where they were greeted by Uncle Norman Archibald and Sheridon Noble, who welcomed everyone onto Country through a traditional smoking ceremony.

Following the smoking ceremony, the girls spent some time introducing themselves and building connections before heading for a guided bushwalk, finishing on the beach. During the walk Uncle Norman Archibald and Sheridon Noble shared cultural stories about the local area, shared some knowledge about local bush medicine and food, and discussed the importance of respect and lore when visiting a new area.

The group then met up with Cultural and Heritage Officers working on an archeological site at Belmont where they had the opportunity to view artefacts, see an active archeological site in operation and learn about the historical and cultural significance of the location.

The afternoon was dedicated to culture, identity and leadership activities, with the girls enjoying the opportunity to learn from Sheridon Noble and build deeper connections whilst painting clapsticks, learning to weave and painting each other in ochre.

During the evening, the girls had a group dinner at Doyalson before returning to camp for some bonding and laughs whilst playing card games.

On the last day of camp, the girls went for a walk around the water and had a final group reflection; sharing the impact of the camp and what learnings they would be taking home. The conversations continued throughout the bus ride back to Sydney, with all participants returned home safe and sound in the Souths Cares buses.

Zoe Simpson, School Programs Worker for the Liverpool Opportunity Hub explained it was a great experience attending her first Leadership and Cultural Camp with Souths Cares.

“The past few days were a wonderful experience, with the girls from three different Souths Cares programs getting to know each other and building life-long friendships. All the girls walked away with a stronger connection to culture and some new leadership skills”, Zoe said.

The camp was made possible through the generous support of Ingenia Holiday Parks.