Jessica Jones reflects on her visit to the Northern Territory community, Laynhapuy Homelands
Last week I was humbled to visit some of our Northern Territory remote communities. Many may not know that we have been working with Laynhapuy Aboriginal Homelands Corporation for sometime, providing support to where it matter most to these communities. Funding.
Every community deserves to be a liveable one right? I am fairly certain most would agree on that. What liveability means to each community differs with respect to location, culture and values.
Basic living standards we take for granted simply don’t exist in some of our First Nation communities. Telecommunications, electricity, water security, even dare I say it bathrooms with flushing toilets. Could you fathom that in this day and age that outhouses still exist?
I had the privilege of being shown around the village of Gangan, by Naypirri 'Billy' (pictured above) a traditional owner, community elder and leader of this beautiful place his family call home. This day will be a lasting memory. An incredibly gifted artist, he told me how much he loves his land and how connected his people are to the land. They live extraordinarily simple lives, meaningful in what matters to them.
Billy told me the story around the history of his community and what happened years ago, still very fresh in his memory; a massacre in 1911 that took the lives of almost their entire clan. The few that survived did so by jumping in the river, snapping off the Lilypad reeds and staying hidden underwater breathing through these lily reeds - fearing what was outside of the water more than in. There is a memorial erected beside the river in honour of those that perished, and I feel incredibly privileged to have been taken there.
He told me about hunting and fishing, about caring for their lands through traditional burning and management of weeds. Cooking their catch the traditional way, in the ground on coals with native bush herbs and covered in the paperbark pulled off the nearby tree. He has dreams for his community. They want to tell their story and provide tourism experiences to visitors to showcase their traditional customs. He also wants to build a bigger store.
This community, amongst many others in the Laynhapuy Homelands represent some of the most remote and vulnerable communities in Australia, let alone the world. I don’t see value placed on material possessions, this is not what seems important. What is important, is access to basic living standards (like toilets and showers and access to hot water), healthcare, fit for purpose education and the ability to not be held back. This is a fundamental requirement to be able to grasp opportunities such as tourism or other enterprise, let alone health and wellbeing.
When I reflect on this and the recent conversation at the ILF in Cairns in May, it is incredible to see how progressive our First Nations are. The conversation is a strategic one, but it is also one of action and not to be underestimated. Time for everyone else to catch up and become an enabler to their journey towards empowerment and self-determination. What that means for each First Nations community may be different, will be different, but that is not for us to decide. Our role is to provide the necessary support, where needed, to enable this journey and help these communities build sustainable futures.
To Kerry, Jeff and the team at Laynha, thank you for providing the opportunity to visit your communities and seeing on the ground the difference every little bit of funding makes. The Laynhapuy Homelands does a tremendous job supporting these incredible communities.
To all reading this, if you do get the opportunity to visit these beautiful lands one day, take it!
Incredible vast sunsets and sunrises, wild cattle and roaming buffalo, the richest red soil of the outback, lush green lands covered in native Pandanus and vibrant wildflowers. Remote villages with welcoming people speaking in native tongue and broken English going about their daily lives. This is what you can expect to see when you visit East Arnhem Land, located 900km east of Darwin on the Gove Peninsula. It is almost a forgotten world of a bygone era where traditional indigenous customs are still so very strong.
The Buku-Larrnggay Mulka Centre (Yirrkala Art Gallery) is the Indigenous community controlled art centre of Northeast Arnhem Land located in Yirrkala, approximately 700km east of Darwin and has one of the greatest displays of Indigenous art you can possibly imagine. That reason alone is cause enough to visit, another is the Garma Festival, a celebration of Yolŋu cultural, artistic and ceremonial traditions that takes place every August over four days in East Arnhem Land.