MEMBER BLOG: Visiting Bawinanga Aboriginal Corporation (BAC)

Membership engagement is the word at the moment for Jobs Australia and there are so many ways in which that can occur. More and more, I am enjoying the privilege of accepting invitations from members to attend their service and see them ‘in action’. My most recent visit resulted from receiving an invitation stating, ‘have you observed a very remote employment service and do you understand how it works?’.

Whilst I thought I had some insight into what remote work was about, it is hard to fully appreciate the impact of remoteness, the specific demographics of the local community and the tyranny of the local environment. My fleeting visit by no means accounts for lived experience in very remote Australia, though it still provides a clear sense of the herculean challenges related to service provision in remote outback Australia.

By accepting the invitation from Bawinanga Aboriginal Corporation (BAC) I was delighted to be able to gather greater insight into these issues. Coupled with the invaluable knowledge and experience from my recent Ironbark Aboriginal Corporation visit, both these organisations have highlighted to me how much Jobs Australia can gain to represent their membership from these visits. I was subsequently in awe of the work being undertaken by BAC, the contribution to the local community and the ongoing successes. BAC CEO Ingrid Stonhill welcomed me to the community of Managrida, in Arnhem Land and facilitated a two-day tour of the region which commenced with meeting the staff at the central office, as well as meeting the Board Chair, Dion.

After meeting with Dion, I attended the shed where the rangers were preparing to go ‘on site’ to engage in a range of environmental activities including capturing at risk wildlife, as well as maintaining the sacred lands. Following this, I walked around the plant nurser y where I had the pleasure of meeting Elli, Nursery and Bushland Coordinator, as well as Leila, Nursery Manager and Community Elder, who supervises the program collecting local fruit called Kakadu plums (also known as Billygoat Plums – pictured below).

After the nursery, I was invited into the Yeya Shed, where many activities providing opportunity for local men to learn and develop skills where highlighted, such as building boats for the local community (pictured below).

As always, meeting local women is a great pleasure for me. The Babbarra Women’s centre which is a local retail and studio for women to learn their crafts and skills. This Women’s Centre invited me to witness some superlative screen painting (pictured below), some of which will be taken to the Parisian Musée d'Orsay. This has recently been reported on the ABC: https://www.abc.net.au/news/2019-06-15/maningrida-nt-artists-off-to-paris-despite-passport-problems/11210504

Traditional owners are highly respected and engaged in many of the programs delivered by BAC. Don, a community elder works with Clem, Business Development Manager of the BAC CDP activities and together showed me an example of the CDP program at work, where some local participants were repairing the fishing and crabbing nets that had been damaged by crocodiles (pictured below).

[from left to right: Michael, Don, Clem are watching as Dean works on a cage]
My second day involved a larger amount of travel, where I continually was taken aback by the expansive remoteness of the region, the impact of environmental elements such as blocked crossings in the wet season (effectively cutting off entire communities) and the vastness of the region necessitating extensive travel.

My tour of the various BAC sites revealed an incredible and busy organisation; working within a tough environment, assisting a wonderful community to achieve optimal results, building a greater levels of resilience and develop both useful and practical skills. Jobs Australia members work is complex and challenging yet rewarding, which was evident throughout my tour hosted kindly by the BAC.