This morning I’m waking up at Oak Valley, a remote Aboriginal community located on the southern fringe of The Great Victoria Desert, approximately 516kms northwest of Ceduna on Maralinga Tjarutja Lands. We made the 6-hour 4WD trip yesterday, contending with corrugated dirt roads, kangaroos and camels. We’re visiting to check in on the community activities the NIAA funds and to talk to community members.
I have a quick shower (the community relies on rainwater, so we try and limit our water use as much as possible), and eat breakfast in the camp kitchen with two of my colleagues.
Amy on Maralinga Tjarutja Lands
We head out on country with the Indigenous Rangers, and they show us some of their land management activities, including monitoring wildlife, fire management, and the upkeep of cultural sites. The Indigenous Rangers program provides employment to Aboriginal people and makes use of their traditional knowledge to conserve, protect and manage their lands.
Out on country with the Rangers
We return to Oak Valley and catch up with the Community Manager about some of the challenges the community is facing, and identify opportunities where the NIAA may be able to help.
We eat lunch at a community barbecue, where we chat with community members and listen to their concerns. These informal meetings are vital to the NIAA’s work, as they allow us to build relationships, ensure the community’s needs are being met, and determine how we can improve our support.
We head to the Oak Valley Aṉangu School to check on school attendance, which can often be a challenge in remote communities.
We visit the Arts Centre, where we meet with some of the artists and view their works. The women’s art program is a Community Development Program activity, so we chat to the Coordinator about how the program is running, and hear about her plans for displaying the women’s art at exhibitions and galleries in Adelaide.
We catch up with the Business Manager, who gives us an update on the Government-funded activities at Oak Valley. He tells us that Oak Valley has recently employed a new Youth Programme Coordinator. He started last week after a long search (it can be a challenge to find staff willing to relocate to remote communities) and is keen to work with Oak Valley’s young people.
We set up in the community office to perform some administration tasks, including checking emails and filling out observation reports on today’s activities. A phone tower was recently installed at Oak Valley, so we even have internet access!
We return to our accommodation to make dinner and relax. I head outside to take in the glorious sunset and watch the stars come out.