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.

Kutjungka: Launch of Prospectus

On 25 and 26 August 2021, the desert communities of Wirrimanu (Balgo), Mindibungu (Billiluna), Mulan, and Kundat Djaru (Ringer Soak) met for their first governance committee meeting and also launched their prospectus at the East Kimberley District Leadership Group in Halls Creek.

The Kutjungka (‘as one’ in Kukutja) project is an Aboriginal-led initiative to improve the livelihoods of remote desert communities, fix local issues and keep the government and service delivery providers accountable. 

In late August, the Kutjungka leadership governance committee met in Halls Creek which involved the community leaders from Mindibungu (Billiluna), Wirrimanu (Balgo), Mulan and Kundat Djaru (Ringer Soak). This was the first governance committee meeting, since it was established earlier this year in April. 

In his opening remarks, Dennis Chungulla welcomed all the community leaders: ‘We’ve all worked hard to get here. We want to see our family and kids benefit from this project. Let’s make it work for our people, together.’ 

The Kutjungka governance committee finalised the Kutjungka prospectus, which identified all the key strategic priorities that were shared but also on a community level. 

Noel Mason, CEO of the Shire of Halls Creek, briefly joined the Kutjungka governance meeting and evoked the importance of the project for the future ways of working in remote Aboriginal communities.

‘Kutjungka is the project that shows them that we need to change the way we do business in remote Aboriginal communities. For far too long, governments have had too much of a say in the lives of those in remote Aboriginal communities, without the people benefiting at a local level. Kutjungka is an opportunity for us to practice what we preach,’ said Noel. 

Margaret Glass, Director of Youth and Community Development at the Shire of Halls Creek, also helped to chair the first governance meeting: ‘We have come here to have a bigger political voice and so the government can hear the voices from the local level. So the idea is to get this leadership committee strong, do the advocacy in Perth and Canberra – wherever you need to go – but you mob doing it for yourself, for your communities,’ said Margaret. 

Julianne Johns from Mulan shared why she was a part of the Kutjungka project: ‘We’d like to see a better community, see what happens and help our young people,’ said Julianne.

Peter Wein from Kundat Djaru (Ringer Soak) also emphasised that remote Aboriginal communities are left out and Kutjungka would be able to have their voice heard: ‘We really want our communities up and running. We can’t just talk; we need to see action. Ringer Soak is always left out. Our community is really lost. So we’re joining together with this project to make a future for ourselves.’

The Kutjungka community leaders also presented at the East Kimberley District Leadership Group, which included senior government officials from different agencies (such as the Department of Justice and Department of Communities). 

The Kutjungka project is being rolled out in the coming months and is funded by the National Indigenous Australians Agency.

Mibala Learning: The Journey Begins

In mid-August 2021, Olabud Doogethu began its pilot of 'Mibala' ('Us Together' in Kimberley Kriol), an alternative education pathway for children that have disengaged in schooling.

In Halls Creek, education remains one of the toughest policy challenges. For years, the education system has lagged behind, failing to prepare the children of Halls Creek for a future in the 21st century.

Research from the Bankwest Curtin Economics Centre ‘The Early Years: Investing In Our Future’ report released last year has shown that Halls Creek ranks as one of the most disadvantaged communities for early childhood education and development in Australia.  In Halls Creek, 75% of people are Aboriginal. For many children and young people living in Halls Creek, English is their second or third language. Having an education curriculum that fails to adapt to the local cultures and languages makes it more challenging for children. 

As a response to this, Olabud Doogethu began the development of ‘Mibala: Learning Country’, a nationally-accredited certificate that will seek to draw on the timeless strength of Aboriginal culture as a tool to support young people’s development and instil confidence and sense of identity.

Most importantly, Mibala has been developed by local Aboriginal Elders and community leaders in Halls Creek, which highlights the urgent need for a localised approach to education.

‘We’re still in early days, but it’s been fulfilling to say the least. We have kids who left the mainstream education system for years now, so it’s difficult to try and get them into a routine. So we work around them, we have had to tailor our approach to them and try to alter out expectations,’ said Thomas Farrer, a Kija man that has joined to support the Mibala program.

When it comes to engaging kids, it’s all about understanding who they are. ‘Our first few days, we actually just observed how they behaved when we took them out on to Country. Who were the leaders, who were the followers, and what would motivate them,’ said Arron Little, a Kija man and the Mibala Learning Coordinator. 

‘Delivering our teaching with flexibility is key. Working in a routine, like in a traditional school, is difficult for these kids. Because they likely grew up in an environment that was unstructured and unpredictable themselves,’ said Arron.

‘Every group of kids that go through Mibala will be different. These are the kids that the schools have left behind, and these are kids that have fallen through the gaps. For a lot of them, they don’t feel like they look forward to a lot of things and opportunities. But through Mibala, we hope they learn more about the strength they have, who they are, where their tribe is from, and that we – as Aboriginal people – are resilient people who are the oldest living culture in the world. We can do anything, because we’ve always adapted,’ said Thomas. 

‘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 that 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. We were just fortunate to find our own strength through our lives, and now we hope we can pass this on through our connection to culture and Country,’ said Arron.

Mibala is also guided by Dean Mosquito, Kija and Jaru man, who is the Executive Officer for Culture and Transformation. Dean oversees all of Olabud Doogethu’s cultural activities and ensures that all programs and operates follow Aboriginal culture and protocols.

‘When I left school at 15 years old…I helped the teacher translate the lessons to the kids and help break down the English, since most kids were from out of town,’ said Dean. 

‘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 learn how to respect their land, their culture, and their language,’ said Dean. 

 

Redesigning Justice in Halls Creek

Olabud Doogethu has begun redesigning a new justice system in Halls Creek, guided by the expertise and world-leading research of Dr Harry Blagg, The University of Western Australia.

In Halls Creek, Olabud Doogethu has begun the journey to redesign the justice system that is based on the concepts of community justice (also known as ‘restorative justice’), which allows communities to ‘own’ their own problems and play a key role in resolving them without using the courts and criminal justice system.

In partnership with Dr Harry Blagg from The University of Western Australia, Olabud Doogethu have begun to recreate the justice system in a way that is based in local Aboriginal law and culture, community-led solutions and strategies, and creating culturally-appropriate pathways for prevention, rehabilitation and support.

Dr Blagg visited Halls Creek and met with Olabud Doogethu earlier this year in April, which began the project of creating a new community justice system.

This initiative is being led by Olabud Doogethu’s human rights team, which consists of Larry Smith, Dennis Chungulla, and Donald Butcher.

‘We live and breathe on Aboriginal land, so our systems should also reflect this reality. There is no Aboriginal ownership or involvement in how justice is done, and by creating the right mechanisms – we can work in a more culturally-appropriate way,’ said Larry Smith.

At the core of Olabud Doogethu’s community justice initiative is putting the community back at the centre of dealing with local issues.

‘Our community knows about the problems that we face and we also have the solutions. It’s important for us to come together, to consult with our Elders, and most importantly for government and services to listen to us – how they can support us in the best way possible so we can create a better community for our children,’ said Dennis.

Olabud Doogethu looks forward to working closely all key government agencies and stakeholders to create a better justice system in Halls Creek.