A Big Heart For The Local Community

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.”

Navigating cross-culturally

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.”

Let’s Talk To Our Kids

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.”

I See Myself In These Kids

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.”

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.”

Jessica Bradshaw: A Mother, A Leader

Jessica Bradshaw is a proud Ngardi and Walpiri woman, a mother of two, and one of Olabud Doogethu's female trailblazers that works with Halls Creek's most at-risk children.

Now, Jessica, a lot of people don’t know this but you’ve actually worked for Olabud Doogethu before. Can you introduce yourself and what you used to do?

Yes, my name is Jessica Bradshaw. I am a Ngardi and Walpiri woman. When I first joined, I was doing the night patrol work to help the kids go back home last year. I was doing that work fora couple of months.

Why did you get involved with Olabud Doogethu in the first place?

My biggest thing was that I wanted to do something for the young people. As a child growing up in Halls Creek, we used to have all these youth services – so I wanted to help our community and help our kids to become the future generation.

So you grew up in Halls Creek. Can you tell me what was that like?

Everybody in the community connected – it doesn’t matter where you came from but we’re all family in this one community. But as we get older, and we’ve got our own kids to look after, it’s pretty different to how I used to grow up. Looking at the kids today, made me think of my childhood and how things are so different for them today… but looking at the kids, they’re our future…. I feel like everybody has forgotten about them.

When you were growing up, would you say you were similar to the kids growing up today?

It was different, because we had youth services back in the day. We used to do a lot of things – I learnt how to play basketball and got trained by a youth service worker…. not only that, but I used to play all these different sports like indoor cricket at the hall. It was really fun. Now the kids don’t really have that. I don’t know but the biggest thing for me to join Olabud Doogethu was to help the young people, help them find out who they are and what they’ll become in the future.

Today, you’re a Case Intervention Officer. For people who don’t know what that is, can you tell us what you do?

I work with the girls and working around them and their well-being, in and out of school and home just to see how they are going and if they’re attending school every day, you know? Some days are tough, but some days are good.

For you, what’s the biggest challenge with working with the girls?

It’s tough for me because I don’t want to see any of the kids get left behind… I have seven clients. They’re good and kids are kids. As a Mother, I have two boys. Quincy is 17 and Scotty is 12 years old.So being a Mother, when I take care of clients, I can understand the kids. Some kids have probably missed out on a Mother figure, and so me just being there for the other kids is important.Everybody has their own story, but through my job I just want to try to help them through their situations and problems they’re going through.

Now as a Ngardi and Walpiri woman, does this help you with your job, particularly when connecting with people in the communities of Halls Creek?

Yes, I can understand Walpiri and Jaru more butonce you know one language, you can connect with the others easily. I know Jaru, Kija, Kukutja, Walpiri, and Gooniyandi… and English!

How would you describe working with Olabud Doogethu, during your time before and today?

It’s like this one big family, hey. When I first came, I was a bit shy. But that’s not who I am. I felt welcome and I felt like – well, as a woman, you have to lead as well as the men. That’s how I see myself, leading my people.

What are your hopes and dreams for the future of Halls Creek?

It won’t take a day, but it’s going to happen slowly.So we have to start today to build a good future for our future generation. And they can see us as role models – as leaders – who can show them the way. Maybe one day they’ll have my job and takeover. That’s what I hope for. And not only in Halls Creek, but also in Balgo, Billiluna, Ringer Soak and Mulan. I want that for everybody.

Jesse Bradshaw: Family Support

Jesse Bradshaw, a proud Jaru and Bardi man, helps at-risk young people in Halls Creek as a Case Intervention Officer.

Can you please introduce yourself?

My name is Jesse Bradshaw and I’m a Case Intervention Officer. I joined Olabud Doogethu in January this year [2021].

For people who aren’t a part of Olabud Doogethu, can you talk about your role and what you do?

Well, I basically help young boys (aged 10-17) with one-on-one support and whatever they need or what is required from Department of Child Protection.

Can you talk broadly about the shared challenges that you have to deal with when working with the kids?

One of the biggest challenges I face is helping the kids create a routine for their own selves, like going home early, staying off the streets, supporting them to go to school more. I basically try and provide any support I can give them with the challenges that they find difficult for themselves. The work is pretty broad.

Talk to me about your average day to day work life. What does that look like?

In the morning, we meet up with the Olabud Doogethu Team. We’ll come up with a plan, and then go out and look for our clients – catching up with them, see what they need, help them out. Some days are quiet, some days are busy, it depends on how the clients are and if they’re in town. Some of our clients are out in communities or even in boarding schools.

How do the kids come to your team’s attention?

Some of the kids are referred to from Department of Child Protection, some of them from the Youth Engagement Night Officer crew, the police, or even referred directly from the community.

Can you talk about how it is working with different agencies and service providers?

We work regularly with the Department of Child Protection, depending on the kids. If they require any further assistance, we’ll probably meet up with them once a fortnight or once a week – depending on how much support the kid needs.

Can you talk about the biggest challenges the kids face in their lives?

 I think one of the biggest challenges that the kids face is getting an education – getting kids engaged with schooling. I think if we can help them or encourage them to go to school more, it would be a big tick for them. Some of the kids have no interest in school. If the kids get into a better routine, they could get to school on time, focus at school and so on.

In the coming months, we’ll be launching the Mibala (‘us together’ in Kriol). Can you talk a bit about Mibala, what it’s about, and what does Mibala mean to you?

I think it’s going to be a good program. We’ll try to get the kids into a school routine. Get them learning in a different way and it might encourage them to go back to school. But it’s also good for us because they’ll have someone they know, they’ll be comfortable with us and they’d come to us wanting to be a part of Mibala learning. 

The kids we’ll be working with are likely the kids that are totally detached from school. So we’ll just try and encourage them to get back into it slowly… try to get them to transition back into mainstream education through culture and Country.

The idea of Mibala focuses on using the strength of connection to culture and Country. Can you talk a bit about how connecting to culture and Country can help the kids?

Most of the kids here are too used to being in town… but it’ll be good for them to get out on to Country and learn from the old people while they can. They might come back with a different perspective on life. They probably won’t be stealing things if they proudly carry the knowledge of the bush and of the old people. 

I think some kids have a connection to Country, but some of the kids who don’t have transport or don’t have support around them… but if they do have the chance, they’ll take that opportunity and reconnect.  The main thing is transport, getting back on to Country. If there were any means of support to get back on to Country, they’d be out on Country now. 

 

Towards A Better Future For Men

Donald Butcher is a Kija and Jaru Elder working to build a Men's Tribal Centre in Halls Creek to help guide men and young people towards a better future.

Halls Creek in the 1960s

Donald Butcher, a Kija and Jaru man, was born and raised in Halls Creek. Growing up in Halls Creek in the 1960s, he recalls: ‘it was pretty scrubby… we had plenty of people from different tribes and we got on well when I was young’.

Like many others of his generation, Don finished school and worked in a stockyard and as a station hand. ‘I grew up mostly doing work on the stock yard… on the station… In this town, most of the old people, it was the only life we knew when we left school,’ said Don.

Looking back on his life, Don said the Halls Creek he grew up in was a lot different to what Halls Creek is today.

‘The kids are different now… they don’t have what we had – discipline… and being taught by our family everything that we know,’ said Don.

A community-led Men’s Tribal Centre

Olabud Doogethu, together with the local communities, identified the need for a Men’s Tribal Area, where men can come together and learn from each other, as well as the local Elders.

‘We’re starting to set up a Men’s Tribal Area, an area for fathers and sons… try to keep them out of trouble and have a better future… They got everything they need – but they need jobs and someone to give them that push,’ said Don.

‘We are trying to see what we can establish and slowly engage them and address the troubles in this town… it’s all about getting young men involved, so they know in the future they’ve got something to achieve,’ said Don.

Don hopes that the future generation hears his words:

‘You are the next generation. You’ve got to look forward to what you can achieve and build on it – for your family, for your community, and for this town.’

Supporting Kids Through Culture

Finding a passion to help others succeed in life, Dean wants to use his lifetime of experience to help children build a better future through Mibala Learning On Country.

Dean is a Kija and Jaru man who grew up in Warmun and Halls Creek. When Dean left school at 15 years old, he quickly found a passion to help children learn and succeed which he has carried through his entire life.

`The best part was helping kids get jobs…. I’d help the teacher by translating the lessons to the kids and help break down the English, since most kids were from out of town,’ Dean recalls from his early days as an ATA.

Dean is Olabud Doogethu’s Executive Officer for Culture and Transformation, which includes providing strategic direction for the Mibala Learning On Country program. Mibala seeks to help children develop a strong sense of ‘self’ by taking them out on to Country to reconnect them to their Aboriginal culture, which will then support their efforts to re-integrate into mainstream schooling or pursuing employment pathways.

‘Mibala will be teaching kids cultural stuff. We’ll try to get them ready [for life]… to identify who they are, where they’re from… because most of our kids don’t know who they are and they’re missing out on what’s really important – which is our identity and culture,’ said Dean.

‘I hope when they come out of Mibala, they feel proud of themselves, what they have achieved, where they’re going in life and to learn how to respect their land, their culture and their language,’ said Dean.

Dean is excited to see how the Mibala program can make an impact on the children in Halls Creek. But he also knows that it’s ultimately up to the next generation to build the future that they want.

‘At the end of the day, it’s all about choice. We can teach you all of this. But as a matter of fact, it’s up to you how you put it together,’ said Dean.