Our first experience in a remote Indigenous community didn’t get off to a great start. As we were leaving for the day, we drove our ute over a waterpipe, causing water to spray everywhere and turning Rockhole into Rockpool. We apprehensively returned the following day but were relieved to find that all had been forgotten. The kids welcomed us back with open arms.
It was two weeks ago when we left behind our homes in NSW and Victoria and headed up to the NT. We had never met, but after hearing about the Linkz program, we had all decided we wanted to do something worthwhile and challenging with our summer. Now we’re in Katherine, living together for the month of January and it feels like we’ve known each other forever. We’re spending our days volunteering to run sport and recreation programs – fun activities for kids in some of the remote Indigenous communities around Katherine.
We get home at the end of the day soaking wet with sweat, covered in paint, dirt and water. Which might lead you to ask what on earth are we doing here?
Schools out, and there’s nothing much for the kids to do it seems. We are up here in the Top End trying to provide exciting activities for kids over the summer. Remote Indigenous communities in this area really do have limited access to a range of services, particularly those aimed at youth. We’re trying to help fill this gap.
The organisation we volunteer for, Linkz Incorporated, is a relatively new not-for-profit. It was set up in 2008 by Shona Cools, with the idea of building better relationships between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians in a practical hands-on way with a variety of programs. In Katherine we work in partnership with the local YMCA and the HAY youth activity program.
Each day we load up our ute and head out to Binjari and Rockhole. Being three girls we had to overcome some ‘minor’ challenges. We don’t see ourselves as city slickers but a simple task like filling up petrol has proven problematic. The roads are bumpy, the speed limits are high, we may have lost a few buckets along the way…
The kids have certainly tested our limits. Dried cane toads, baby mice and a few snakes have even been thrown our way!
But don’t be fooled we get as much out of the program as the kids. Slip ‘n’ slide, disco, water fights and laser skirmish – what more could you want? At the end of the day it’s rewarding to be a positive influence in the community during this time. We feel pretty special getting to know these amazing kids.
This week Will Tinapple from ABC Open Top End joined us to run DreamBox, an activity where the kids got to share their dreams for the future with us and capture it in a photograph. Steven Schubert from ABC NT Rural team also came out to check out all of the action, producing the radio story heard above in the video.
We’re only halfway through, but already sad about having to head home. We’re looking forward to the weeks ahead. Bring on week 3!