Travel to and from the Kimberley is typically an expensive venture, and can be a real limitation for locals living in remote WA. Whether its to go on a holiday, visit family or to access services, just getting to Perth and back can be very pricey, and in some cases, unaffordable for our mob. There is some good news in this space…the WA Government has entered into a Regional Airfare Zone Cap scheme with all of the airlines that service this part of the world.
From 1 July 2022 flights to Perth for Kimberley residents will be capped at $299. The airlines can not charge more than this for a one-way ticket to Perth from Kununurra or Broome.
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW…
To be eligible to purchase Residential Fares, you must be a member of the individual airlines loyalty program and list your Kimberley address.
Since COVID-19 reached the Kimberley, organisations, businesses and service providers have had to operate differently. To date there have been over 200 positive cases in Halls Creek town and the surrounding Communities. Social distancing and isolating at home can look quite different for remote communities such as ours.
We have been working hard to continue to support all of the individuals and families we provide services to, assisting with connection to other service and health-care providers where relevant, helping to arrange provisions such as food, COVID-19 test kits, cleaning products and care packages, and generally ensuring COVID safe practices while operating our Programs
Our staff are diligently temperature testing and signing in every morning and evening, testing for COVID at the first sign of symptoms, and always wearing masks and using hand sanitiser. It has not been ideal for service provision, as has been the case for so many organisations around Australia and the world, but we remain committed to our focus; designing, delivering, assisting or supporting programs that build stronger families, improve our quality of life, and champion our proud heritage.
Some of our staff and their families have been directly affected by COVID-19, having to seek medical assistance in some cases and isolating at home if returning a positive test. We commend our staff’s commitment to following COVID safe guidelines while remaining motivated to continue the good work, and return to respective roles and Programs as soon as it is safe to do so.
By working together, towards a common goal, we have remained resilient in the face of COVID-19.
With funding from the Federal Government granted in 2021, Olabud Doogetha was able to launch the Kutjungka Project pilot, employing country men and women as Community Navigators to operate in the remote desert communities of the Kutjungka region.
The role of Community Navigators is to connect members of community with services, identify strengths and weaknesses in current service provision and discover the key priorities of each community, so as to assist in finding the best way forward.
Community Navigators conducted household surveys in early 2022. Click the link above to see the full report.
Lina Tafaoialii believes navigating Aboriginal cultures and having a big heart for the community is key to creating meaningful change.
In the heart of the Kimberley
Originally from New Zealand with Samoan heritage, Lina Tafaoailii arrived in the East Kimberley in 2017 from Sydney wanting a change. She would never imagine she would find happiness in the heart of the Kimberley helping Halls Creek’s most at-risk and vulnerable kids in the Olabud Doogethu Family Support Team.
“In Sydney, I worked in early childhood development. But I wanted a change and to see what the other side of Australia would be like, so I did. The lifestyle in the East Kimberley is more of a “community”, rather than Sydney where everybody is just focused on their own things,” said Lina.
Lina began working in Mindibungu (Billiluna), 150km away from Halls Creek. She started working in different roles and areas – including administration, Centrelink, aged car, and municipal services. That was the foundation for Lina to operate across different systems which eventually saw her join Olabud Doogethu in 2019 as a Family Support Officer.
When Lina moved to Mindibungu (Billiluna), Lina quickly felt the stark difference between remote Aboriginal communities and her life in Sydney and experienced some culture shock.
“It’s hard for remote Aboriginal communities to get the help and talent they need because they’re so remote. In Sydney, you can get help, but I believe a lot of people take that ease and access to services and support for granted. It’s hard to imagine living remote when you’ve never been. Even just contacting services on a telephone is not easy for remote communities. The struggle is definitely real.”
One of Lina’s strengths that helped her adjust in her environment was drawing upon her Samoan heritage, identity, and connection to her culture. She believes there are similarities between Samoan and the Aboriginal cultures that she works with, particularly when it comes to Elders and being respectful.
“Our family kept our culture alive by passing down what they’ve been taught to us, like the role of a Samoan girl or a Samoan boy, you know? It’s really based in respect, being respectful to your Elders and be mindful of those around you. I think that’s really similar in Aboriginal cultures.”
“For me, being respectful in Aboriginal communities is really important. As non-Aboriginal people (Kartiya), we need to respect their ways, how things are done, and adapt to that, and to make sure you are not overstepping the line with anyone or any Elders that you are working with.”
Lina also believes that when it comes to change making in these communities, it’s important to go follow cultural protocol and ensure the community is leading their own change.
“If they want that change in their community, I guess it’s up to them with anything. Even ideas that you bring to the table, it’s up to them. To me, the way I look at it, they know what’s best for their community. As kartiya, we can’t just come in and change things in our own way without working closely with the local community. Some kartiya don’t understand that, but that’s what it really comes down to.”
A sobering reality
One of the most difficult challenges for Lina working with Olabud Doogethu’s Family Support Team is trying to support the at-risk and vulnerable young people, when they are not even supported in their own home or family.
“It’s been very, very hard to look at, or even just hear about. When you see it for yourself, it’s heartbreaking. There is no support from some parents with these kids. I feel like there is no bond there, or the bond is broken. How do you repair that back together? It’s just really, really sad to see. I know some families try their best, but they still can’t get through. There’s just lots of questions, more than answers, around that and how to help.”
For Lina, one of the biggest learning lessons for her working in the East Kimberley is being able to have a big heart, but still remain realistic.
“Having a big heart for the local community is so important. You really want to do so much, but you can’t, or you don’t know how to. You really have to hold space, as much empathy as you can, and hold as much love for the people you work with. But you also have to be realistic with your expectations. I feel like I got attached to the people and the community. I felt it was my duty to always be on top of everything for everybody. But I think you can only do what you can at the end of the day.”
Joseph Cox, a local Jaru and Gooniyandi man, is a Youth Engagement Night Officer and believes in the power of talking to young people and kids to learn how we can provide support, direction, and guidance.
A Halls Creek local
Joseph Cox, a local Jaru and Gooniyandi man, has spent most of his life in Halls Creek. After working across the Kimberley and Northern Territory as a station hand, he eventually returned to Halls Creek to raise his young family close to home.
“I have three kids. They’re still pretty young. We try to keep them at home and I’m trying to get them into fishing, hunting, and bush tucker,” said Joseph.
In September 2021, Joseph joined the Youth Engagement Night Officers to see what it was like working at night time.
“I joined Olabud Doogethu because of the night shift. I wanted to try a different experience working at night, compared to a day job. It’s going alright. It’s good to try and keep the kids under control and try to change things for the better in the community,” said Joseph.
“I enjoy the job so far. I like to get involved and get things happening in the community. But it’s hard to get the kids to work with us, it’s hard to get them to go home.”
Not always a straight answer
A key part to the YENO’s success in Olabud Doogethu’s justice reinvestment initiative is their engagement with the young people and children who roam the streets at night. For Joseph, having a yarn and having a conversation is one of the most important skills to have as a YENO.
“What motivates me is to try and get the kids to listen, to move them along to go home, and just talking to them. We ask them why they’re out at night, what they find good about walking around at night and all that. But they don’t always give you a straight answer. They’re always changing. They’re good with their words.”
Using that energy for good
Joseph believes that there are a lot of different reasons that young people and children roam the streets at night. But he believes that a key to this is getting the young people and children to use their energy in a productive and healthy way, rather using that energy to cause trouble at night.
“I feel like there aren’t enough programs for them, especially after school and early evening. After the King of the Kimberley, the kids had some basketball going on. After that, when it came to 10pm, we moved them along. But they were all ready to go home and we didn’t have a lot of kids on the streets around that time. It’s good to see some programs happening, but I think we need more.”
It doesn’t look like there’s anybody there for them
Most importantly, Joseph believes parents need to check in with their kids more often. After walking the streets regularly at night since he began in September, Joseph believes that a lot of the young people and kids out at night just lack a bit of direction, support, and guidance.
“That’s where it needs to start – at home. Parents and their families need to try pull their own kids up, talk to them about what’s happening, how they’re feeling, what’s right and what’s wrong. But I don’t think parents are talking to their kids. There’s nobody talking to them asking them the questions we ask them at night. To me, it doesn’t look like there’s anybody there for them.”
Doug Morgan, a Balanggarra man from Wyndham, sees Halls Creek’s kids going down the same path he took years ago.
From Wyndham to Halls Creek
Doug Morgan, a Balanggarra man originally from Wydnham, would have never imagined coming to live and work in Halls Creek. But in early 2020, Doug’s partner relocated to Halls Creek for work, which led him to finding a job with Olabud Doogethu – a program he never even heard of before he joined.
“I was just sitting down with some people, having some beers, and having a yarn. And then someone told me I should work for this night program in town. And I was like ‘what night program?’” said Doug.
First night on the job
Since then, Doug has been one of the most consistent Youth Engagement Night Officers working with the kids roaming around at night. His first night was filled with action, where he witnessed a group of kids stealing a car.
“It was crazy. I never thought I’d be doing this [job] on the streets at night in Halls Creek with the amount of kids. There were easily 40 to 60 kids when I joined the team. My first night on the job, I witnessed a stolen car. It sort of spun me out, like seriously? I was confused, stunned, and speechless – all at the same time. Seeing the kids fly through town and in the bush in a stolen car… I was surprised with how the kids knew about all these back roads throughout the entire town. It took the police a couple of hours to just shut them down.”
Past reflecting in the present
While Doug has only just started calling Halls Creek ‘home’, he’s motivated to see a change in the community and work towards a brighter future for the children because he sees a lot of himself in the kids today.
“Growing up, I’ve always been through the court, committing crimes, and on the wrong end of the stick. You see me, then you see them. I see them going down the same path that I took years ago, so I’m trying to help them stop now while they’re still young, or at least get them towards a better future,” said Doug.
Love, respect, and attention
But even in comparison to today’s generation, Doug feels that this generation is another level.
“I was mostly fighting. I didn’t do what the kids are doing out today on the street. It was just different then, I would have gotten a lot more discipline… [But also] they probably don’t get the love, respect, and attention that we did back in the day, you know? So, the kids today, they go out and seek that attention and respect – but they only know how to do it in a wrong way by causing trouble.”
Coming together as one
Doug feels the biggest challenge in Halls Creek is that the community doesn’t come together, especially at night time.
“At night, it’s mostly just us [YENOs] alone. We all have a part to play in doing something better for the kids of Halls Creek. We need to work together, alongside each other – in the day and the night, with families and other agencies. The police do what they can, but they’re so busy – they’re also outnumbered and out staffed,” said Doug.
Doug believes that taking care of kids is not a 9-5 job, but a 24-7 commitment that should be the responsibility of parents and families.
“The kids on the streets don’t have anything going on for them in their life. There is nothing for them to look forward to, especially after school hours,” said Doug.
For Doug, he believes that the Halls Creek community can’t afford to keep blaming each other and to step up and take action.
“Stop playing the blame game because we all need to pitch in to help this town. It would be a better town then for everybody.”
James Tremlett is an 18-year-old Jaru and Yindjibarndi man. As a Halls Creek local, he only wants the best future for the kids of Halls Creek.
Giving back to the community
James Tremlett is an 18-year-old Jaru and Yindjibarndi man who was born and raised in Halls Creek, WA. James left school at 16 years old to work in the mining and construction industry, but recently felt he wanted a change. He joined Olabud Doogethu after seeing his uncles, Dean Mosquito and Doug Morgan working.
“I had to make a decision between school and work, but I chose to work because I knew I was getting paid… I wanted to see what it feels like to work with the community and to be a role model for the kids,” said James, when asked why he joined Olabud Doogethu.
James joined Olabud Doogethu only three months ago as a Youth Engagement Night Officer. In this job, he walks the streets at night, engages with at-risk young people who are roaming the night, and tries to encourage them to go home.
When it was his first day on the job, he felt like his life flashed before his eyes.
“I thought it was like a dream, like my life flashed in front of my eyes. There was an ABC journalist that came to interview all the YENO team. It went alright, I didn’t get interviewed. To me, on my first night, I wasn’t expecting anything. It would have been funny if I was interviewed on my first night ever.”
The need to step-up
Only three months into the job, James believes that the community needs to step up and join the YENO efforts in being there for their kids.
“They don’t know how many hours we commit every night to just talk to their children, and sacrificing our sleeping patterns… To be honest, I think parents really need to step it up. They really need to speak to their own kids. Not put them in their place but look at things in a different perspective. Teach them right from wrong, give them a bit of discipline – that’s how we can change the situation at night from my perspective.”
Despite James’ youth, he speaks with the lived experiences of what happens at night as a YENO, when most of the community are asleep.
“[When I’m older] I don’t want to keep seeing the kids still late out at night. The cycle needs to stop continuing. I want the kids of Halls Creek having the best future that they possibly could have.”
Sharing stories, little yarns, and drinking tea are some of the local solutions families can do to be there for their kids, says Jaru man Lorenzo Gordon.
A passion for young people
Despite growing up mostly in Kununurra, Jaru man Lorenzo Gordon has called Halls Creek home since 2012.
Lorenzo is one of the hardworking Youth Engagement Night Officers that regularly walks the streets at night working closely with at-risk young people. In the day, you can also find Lorenzo supervising the Halls Creek Aquatic and Recreation Centre ensuring that the kids are safe.
Throughout his career, Lorenzo believes that working with young people is a calling for him, as he was always taking care of his little cousins when he was growing up.
“I think [working with young people] is one of my callings. Maybe it’s a job that was meant to be for me, showing these kids how I grew up and telling stories to them. I feel like that’s the case because I’ve always looked after kids. I was one of the oldest in my family, so I was always looking after my little cousins and it just grew from there,” said Lorenzo.
Lorenzo brings a combination of lived experience and professional experience, having previously worked with young people in Derby, Broome, and Halls Creek before he joined the YENOs.
“My first job as an adult [18 years old] was as a Counsellor where I helped people who had disabilities or mental health challenges. Like people who have a hard time at home, always angry. Man, I didn’t know what I was doing. I went for it and tried it… I learnt how to be compassionate and be good to people.”
Lorenzo believes that his job as a Counsellor helped teach him how to read people and to offer support to them, even during difficult times.
Quick tempered and wild
But when Lorenzo was growing up, he admits he wasn’t the best kid. Anger was one of his biggest challenges.
“I wasn’t the best kid growing up in Kununurra. I was always getting into fights… The teachers there still helped me with big opportunities when I asked them, like going away and boarding. I was at Clontarf Aboriginal College in Perth for a year and a bit, but I got kicked out. I was quick tempered, got wild a lot, and threatened a lot of kids growing up,” Lorenzo said, as he reflected on his childhood.
It’s the little things that count
Since then, Lorenzo has turned a page and has used his lived experiences to share his knowledge and wisdom with kids who walk the streets out at night.
“Storytelling is pretty good. Some of these kids, when they walk around on the weekends, I try to encourage them to just hang around near their home and stay off the streets. Or have a friend over and have some cups of tea together.”
For Lorenzo, he believes it will need to be a community effort – not just the YENOs – to be there for their own children and spend time with them.
“Parents just need to shoot some basketball hoops with their sons and daughters, simply spend time with them, sit down and have a little yarn, or go camping with them. I hope parents can come out at night and look at what’s going on in the streets. We all need to look at this together. Some of the kids may be angry, may be sad, but we all just need to spend time with them.”
Kevin Hunter Jr is a Jaru and Gooniyandi man and the manager for the Youth Engagement Night Officer program. After seeing kids roam the street night after night, he believes any long-term solution needs to start at home.
Everything happens for a reason
Kevin Hunter Jr, a Jaru and Gooniyandi man, is the YENO Manager for Olabud Doogethu. Kevin was born and raised in the East Kimberley, growing up between Wyndham and Halls Creek, with family ties to nearby Lamboo Station.
“Before I joined Olabud Doogethu, I was actually living in Katherine in the Northern Territory. I was doing work there for Remote Civil, it was a cruisy job. I did roadworks, bitumen, and looking after rest areas on the highways. It was pretty good. There was a lot of travel, Monday to Friday, being in different places, you know.”
But a quick trip back to Halls Creek led Kevin to an unexpected stay that saw him quickly rise through the ranks to lead the team of YENOs.
“It was by accident, really. I brought my Mum back, and then I had a car problem. I couldn’t get back to Katherine, so I kicked back here and had to make some money. I started working for Olabud Doogethu, got a promotion here, then there… It wasn’t my plan come back here for a while because we just moved to Darwin earlier this year. But I think it happened for a reason.”
Trouble at night
Working in the YENO team is one of the toughest jobs in town with many in the community often not seeing the hard work and sacrifice from the YENO teams who are all local people.
Patrolling the streets every night from 8pm to 6am is a thankless task and each YENO is motivated to make a difference in their community and to be there for the children when nobody else is.
“There are kids that are five to six years old walking around all night. The big kids are teaching them bad habits at a young age, when they should be role models to them instead… Seeing the kids out at night is very sad – like where are the parents?” said Kevin.
“I like this job because I’m trying to get them off the streets before they end up being broken and into the justice system and going from there. It’s always good to have a chat to them, explain to them that education is important, and that being home is good for them.”
Broken families, broken homes
Despite the YENOs best efforts to talk to the kids to go home, many kids in Halls Creek don’t have positive role models and come from broken homes and broken families.
“Well, it begins at home. The kids these days – just seeing and listening to them – they have no food, no bed. All the things that kids should have from loving parents that love them and do things for them – that connection between parents and their children is broken. There’s nothing at home for the kids, so they feel more comfortable out on the street. We’ve seen it ourselves, with parents that drink a lot and have a lot of guests around – I can’t imagine it for the kids trying to live there. Loud music. Violence. And so on beyond that. When we talk to them, they say they’re more safer out on the street than at home until the early hours.” said Kevin.
The YENO program, which is Olabud Doogethu’s flagship program has been running for two years now. It has seen a lot of success in the community, with the latest data from WA Police showing a 63% reduction in burglaries (aged 10-17) and 69% reduction in arrests (aged 10-17) from 2017 to 2020, but this is not often felt by the community who still see regular break-ins and stolen cars.
It starts at home
Breaking the cycle in Halls Creek is a generational challenge brought about by the little yarns and connections sparked by the YENOs. Kevin’s work as a YENO Manager especially hits home, being a father of four young kids himself.
“It hits home. I have four kids and when I finish my night shift, I enjoy every moment with them. I love them up more, I take them out bush, go hunting, and teach them everything. Being a YENO, it makes me want to be a better father, a better role model for my kids and for others. This job has helped me a lot in a way because my connection to who I want to be as a father has gotten stronger. I’ve seen a lot of broken families out there…I feel sorry for these kids,” said Kevin.
A cry for help
After being on the streets most nights in Halls Creek, Kevin believes that the YENOs can do the best job they can. But it’s ultimately up to the parents and families themselves to be there for their kids as a long-term solution.
Until the healing begins at home, Kevin believes that kids will continue causing trouble out at night because it’s their cry for help.
“They’re just looking for attention. It’s back to that caring. The kids are crying for help, so they do these little bad things, these bad habits, to get attention that they never received at home from their own parents.”
“The sad part about it is that you’ve got all these parents, with their chairs out – like they’re watching the cinemas – just parked up on their lawn watching the kids cause trouble at night. They should be encouraging their kids to go home. It shocks me.”
“Parents need to start being parents. They need to sacrifice and put their own fun behind them and start being a parent to their kids. That’s when things will start changing, I think. Kids would stay at home if they do have food, a bed, and a good relationship with their parents. It’s broken because there’s none of that.”
Kevin hopes to see Halls Creek become a positive place to raise families, just like how he remembers it from back in the day.
“I hope it would be a family friendly town again, a little quiet town where everybody looks out for each other. Everybody knows everybody. Everybody’s got each other’s backs.”
The first Halls Creek Vax-a-thon was hosted by Yura Yungi Medical Service. This was an opportunity for Olabud Doogethu staff to receive their first COVID-19 vaccination.
The first Halls Creek Vax-A-Thon was held on 26 October 2021 at the Halls Creek Aquatic and Recreational Centre, hosted by Yura Yungi Medical Service (YYMS).
The Vax-a-thon also featured local Halls Creek AFL stars -Jy Farrar, Ashley Johnson, and Sam Petrevski-Seton.
The Olabud Doogethu staff joined in the Vax-a-Thon by providing photographs for the event, as well as three new staff members — Michaela, Joel, and Jamal — getting their first COVID-19 vaccination jab.
Halls Creek has one of the lowest vaccination rates across the state, with concerns that the state re-opening the borders will put the communities in the East Kimberley at severe risk of getting COVID-19.
The Vax-a-thon was highly successful with more than 70 people getting their first vaccine at the Vax-a-thon and another being planned for November 2021.
Currently, a majority of Olabud Doogethu staff have already been vaccinated against COVID-19.
Michaela Malay, one of Olabud Doogethu’s newest Youth Development Officers, received her first vaccination at the Vax-a-Thon.
While Michaela was initially hesitant about the vaccine, she felt more comfortable once more people from her church were getting vaccinated.
‘Once people from church were getting vaccinated, and then learning that my Mum was already vaccinated, I decided that I should just go for it and do my part,’ said Michaela.
Two other recent additions to the Olabud Doogethu team is Jamal Dixon and Joel Nauta – who received their first vaccinations too.
‘I was pretty nervous, but all of the Olabud Doogethu team were supportive and it was good to get the jab with Joel,’ said Jamal.
Joel agreed: ‘People were happy to be there. There was live music, and lots of people bringing their friends and families, so it had a good community vibe to it.’
Mandatory COVID-19 vaccinations will be essential for Olabud Doogethu staff members from 31 November 2021.
Western Australia's first justice reinvestment project