Breaking The Cycle: Kids Deserve The Best Future

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.”

It’s The Little Things: Stories, Yarns, and Tea

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.”

Healing Community: It Starts At Home

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.

As the Manager for YENOs, Kevin constantly sees the effects of broken families and broken homes on the children that roam the night. This has strengthened his own connection with his four children, wanting to be a better father and role model for them.

“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.”

Rolling Up For Halls Creek’s Vax-A-Thon

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.

Nation’s Eyes On Mibala Learning On Country Program

Olabud Doogethu's Mibala Learning on Country was featured by the ABC News across national television, radio, and online in October 2021.

In October 2021, Olabud Doogethu was featured by the ABC News across national television, radio, and online focusing on the Youth Engagement Night Officer (YENO) program and the latest addition, Mibala (‘us together’ in Kriol).

Mibala is Olabud Doogethu’s alternative education program, supporting young people who have disengaged with the traditional education system by placing Aboriginal knowledge and history at the front of children’s learning.

The ABC News coverage highlighted the poor school attendance rate (35%) in Halls Creek, which has resulted in most children in Halls Creek having less than average numeracy and literacy skills, compared to the rest of Australia.

Arron Little, a local Kija man and the Coordinator of the Mibala Program, feels that too many Aboriginal kids don’t have a connection to their Aboriginal culture and identity, and so they find it difficult to navigate between the two worlds they find themselves in – the blackfella and whitefella world.

‘Our greatest strength as people who are leading this program is that we ourselves have gone through similar experiences that the kids have gone through. We can relate on a level no kardiya can understand, and I think that’s what makes Mibala unique. It’s done by local people and our Elders, who have lived these lives too,’ said Arron.

Funding for Olabud Doogethu was also highlighted by the ABC News, highlighting that if the program is to remain innovative, governments need to back locally-led Aboriginal solutions for the long-term.

Dean Mosquito, Olabud Doogethu’s Executive Officer of Culture and Transformation and local Kija and Jaru Elder spoke on the importance of listening to local mob – local solutions for local problems.

‘They’ve [white institutions] have been doing it for the last 30 years their way; time to turn the tables and do it our way.’

To access the ABC News coverage, you can read the article here, or watch the full story here.

Building A Future Through Aboriginal Lore and Culture

Built on traditional Aboriginal ceremonial grounds, the Men's Tribal Centre is Olabud Doogethu's latest initiative to bring men and young people together to find strength through Aboriginal lore and culture.

Since the Shire of Halls Creek approved the establishment of a Men’s Tribal Centre in August 2021, the Olabud Doogethu Aboriginal Corporation has begun establishing an Elder’s Reference Group, which consists of key Aboriginal Elders from the key communities in Halls Creek.

The Men’s Tribal Centre will be established on the old Halls Creek Golf Club, which is traditional ceremonial grounds for Aboriginal men. In particular, these grounds were used to prepare young Aboriginal men to enter lore.

‘This land has been handed down to us for over a thousand years… It’s for everybody to come in, no matter what skin you are, what tribe you are. It’s a very cultural area for any men to go there,’ said Larry Smith, who is overseeing the work at the Men’s Tribal Centre. 

The entrance to the Men’s Tribal Centre, which is the former Halls Creek Golf Course.

Like many in the community, Larry feels that there hasn’t been any culturally-safe places for Aboriginal men to get together, to yarn, and to deal with problems with the guidance of leading Aboriginal Elders and others in the community.

‘It’s the first one for us, for a very long time… We’ve never had anything like this so far.’

An integral part to the success of the Men’s Tribal Centre is the co-development process with leading Aboriginal Elders from the Halls Creek communities.

Since the early stages, Aboriginal Elders have guided the Olabud Doogethu human rights team to ensure that the Men’s Tribal Centre is by the community, for the community.

This has so far included guidance from key Elders such as Stewart Morton (Jaru), Keith Jugarie (Kija and Jaru), Jimmy Demi (Kija and Jaru), as well as local people who want to be a part of the Men’s Tribal Centre, such as George Demi (Kija and Jaru).

For many, the Men’s Tribal Centre is an opportunity for young people to reconnect with their Aboriginal culture, history, and identities, as well as for people to come together.

Keith Jugarie is a leading Kija and Jaru Elder who has helped guide and advise the establishment of the Men’s Tribal Centre.

Keith Jugarie, a Kija and Jaru Elder from Mardiwah Loop in Halls Creek hopes that this is more than just talk, and more about action.

‘What I hate to see is just talk, and nothing gets done. But if we can get together, make a plan, and get it up and going for all of us to share, then it will be good,’ said Keith.

‘In this sort of town here, we’ve got so many different tribes here. You’ve got Jaru, Kija, Walmajarri, Bunuba, and so many from different areas who are now here… I’d like them to understand that we’ve got this thing [Men’s Tribal Centre] up and going… there’s lots of people out there with plenty of good ideas… It’s a really good starting point to get it up and going.’

Passing down knowledge and helping young Aboriginal men learn more about traditional ways is why leading Jaru Elder, Stewart Morton, wants to see the Men’s Tribal Centre be successful in Halls Creek.

Stewart Morton is a leading Jaru Elder and wants to pass on his traditional knowledge to young people.

‘It’s really about teaching. Because there’s no more Old People here. I’m the only old fella here from this Country who’s got the knowledge of the blackfella way. I learnt it from my old parents. It’s time coming. I’m getting a bit too old. I want to pass my knowledge on to the young people and take it from there,’ Stewart said, as he reflected on the legacy he wants to leave behind with the Men’s Tribal Centre.

In Halls Creek, there are major concerns from the community regarding a lost connection to Aboriginal lore and culture.

Many believe that as time goes on, there will be less Old People around to share and pass down this knowledge.

George Demi, a Kija and Jaru man, has supported Olabud Doogethu to set up the Men’s Tribal Centre, alongside his older brother and local Elder, Jimmy Demi.

George believes that the community needs to learn and gain knowledge from the Old People, while they are still around.

‘We don’t have a lot of Old People alive, so we got to pass it on to the next generation that’s growing up and put them through lore and culture – and keep them [young people] strong again,’ said George.

Eric Clyde is a Gurindji Elder from Wave Hill, Northern Territory, and fears that without a Men’s Tribal Centre, there’s a risk of Halls Creek losing its historically rich connection to Aboriginal culture.

Eric Clyde, a Gurindji Elder from Wave Hill, Northern Territory, hopes that the Men’s Tribal Centre can bring young and old people together.

Eric grew up with many of the Elders in Halls Creek today and lives between Wave Hill and Halls Creek. For Eric, he’s noticed that there aren’t many Old People left in Wave Hill either and that the fear of lost cultural connections is real.

‘On our side [Wave Hill], there aren’t many Old People who live. I’ve only seen a couple of them around, but their sons and daughters aren’t into it. They’re all gone,’ said Eric.

‘I hope the young fellas can come here to this place and start working with the Old People. That’ll make good for everybody, because if the young people want to take over… it will also be good for young fellas to come together [at the Men’s Tribal Centre] and get a sense of how other young fellas are doing in the remotes – like Balgo and Mulan.’

There is a wide consensus among locals that a lack of culture and identity is the reason why a lot of young people get in to trouble with the law.

The local Elders who are working on the Men’s Tribal Centre hope that this initiative will help guide young people along and help them create a better future for themselves and for the next generation of Halls Creek.

‘Our generation used to listen to the Old People… We need them [young people] to understand about where they come from and who they are

It’s very important for young people to get their culture back, because if you don’t have any culture, you won’t have any future,’ said Larry.

 

Stewart Morton: Passing on Aboriginal Culture

It's time to pass on Aboriginal lore and culture to the next generation, says Jaru Elder, Stewart Morton.

Stewart Morton is one of the last local Jaru Elders in Halls Creek, where he’s working with Olabud Doogethu to help set up a Men’s Tribal Centre.

‘Today, while I’m still alive – still here, I’d like to see them catch the corroboree, get it into them, and take it forward from there, you know?’ said Stewart.

‘It’s really about teaching. Because there’s no more Old People here. I’m the only old fella here from this Country who’s got the knowledge of blackfella way. I learnt from my old parents. Its time coming, I’m getting a bit too old. I want to pass my knowledge on to the young people and take it from there and I hope you can take it along‘. 

The Men’s Tribal Centre is located on Halls Creek’s former golf course, which is historically a traditional Aboriginal ceremonial grounds. The Men’s Tribal Centre will be a culturally safe space for Aboriginal men to come together, for young people to learn from local Elders, and for non-Aboriginal people to connect with the timeless Aboriginal cultures in the area.

The Men’s Tribal Centre is an initiative led by Olabud Doogethu Aboriginal Corporation, the Shire of Halls Creek, and the Elder’s Reference Group. 

If you are interested in supporting Olabud Doogethu’s efforts to bring together a Men’s Tribal Centre in Halls Creek, you can contact Larry Smith on 9168 6007.

George Demi: Strength Through Lore and Culture

George Demi, local Kija and Jaru man, hopes that the Men's Tribal Centre can help young Aboriginal people reconnect with their culture, find their strength, and walk towards a better future.

George Demi (Kija and Jaru) is a local community leader who is working alongside Aboriginal Elders to establish a Men’s Tribal Centre in Halls Creek.

‘One thing about this place [Men’s Tribal Centre] is that we can go back to the old days again. This new generation now, when the drugs came in – we didn’t have drugs back in the days – we used to live and hunt on the land,’ said George.

‘Another thing is that we don’t have a lot of Old People alive, so we got to pass it on to the next generation that’s growing up and put them through lore and culture and keep them strong again. For lore and culture, it comes from the old parents – from their mothers and fathers, their great grandmothers, and back to the old days. [We can] teach that, that it wasn’t like this, that we never grew up like this’. 

The Men’s Tribal Centre is located on Halls Creek’s former golf course, which is historically a traditional Aboriginal ceremonial grounds. The Men’s Tribal Centre will be a culturally safe space for Aboriginal men to come together, for young people to learn from local Elders, and for non-Aboriginal people to connect with the timeless Aboriginal cultures in the area.

The Men’s Tribal Centre is an initiative led by Olabud Doogethu Aboriginal Corporation, the Shire of Halls Creek, and the Elder’s Reference Group. 

If you are interested in supporting Olabud Doogethu’s efforts to bring together a Men’s Tribal Centre in Halls Creek, you can contact Larry Smith on 9168 6007.

Keith Jugarie: Coming Together With Good Ideas

For Keith Jugarie, Kija and Jaru Elder, the Men's Tribal Centre will play an important role for bringing everybody together and sharing good ideas for a better future.​

Keith Jugarie (Kija and Jaru) is a local Elder that resides in Mardiwah Loop in Halls Creek. 

‘In this sort of town here, we’ve got so many different tribes here. You’ve got Jaru, Kija, Walmajarri, Bunuba, and so many from different areas who are now here. A long time ago, it wasn’t like that,’ said Keith.

‘I’d like them to understand that we’ve got this thing [Men’s Tribal Centre] up and going and for people who would like to come in – there’s lots of people out there with plenty of good ideas, people who are a bit older than what I am. It’s a really good starting point, to get it up and going. What I hate to see is just talk, and nothing gets done. But if we can get together, make a plan, and get it up and going, for all of us to share, then it will be good.’

The Men’s Tribal Centre is located on Halls Creek’s former golf course, which is historically a traditional Aboriginal ceremonial grounds. The Men’s Tribal Centre will be a culturally safe space for Aboriginal men to come together, for young people to learn from local Elders, and for non-Aboriginal people to connect with the timeless Aboriginal cultures in the area.

The Men’s Tribal Centre is an initiative led by Olabud Doogethu Aboriginal Corporation, the Shire of Halls Creek, and the Elder’s Reference Group. 

If you are interested in supporting Olabud Doogethu’s efforts to bring together a Men’s Tribal Centre in Halls Creek, you can contact Larry Smith on 9168 6007.

Shire Approves Men’s Tribal Centre

The Shire of Halls Creek has approved for Olabud Doogethu to begin creating a Men's Tribal Centre on the old Halls Creek golf club, which is traditional Aboriginal ceremonial grounds.​

Olabud Doogethu has begun the process of creating a Men’s Tribal Centre, following approval from the Shire of Halls Creek in late August. 

The Men’s Tribal Centre is a community-led initiative where men can come together and learn from each other, as well as the local Elders. 

Olabud Doogethu is currently working collaboratively with key Aboriginal Elders throughout the Halls Creek community to shape the future direction of the Men’s Tribal Centre.

The prospective site will be located on the old Halls Creek golf course, which has been identified as a traditional ceremonial ground for Aboriginal people. 

‘Men haven’t had a place for themselves to come together and yarn. We hope this would be a space that can bring all tribes together, and help connect young people with their culture. It’s a way for us to work together on community issues, but also for new people to come to the town and learn about culture from our Elders and our community,’ said Larry Smith, Human Rights Officer who is working on developing the Men’s Tribal Centre. 

If you’re interested in learning more and being a part of this process, contact Olabud Doogethu.