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National Indigenous Australians Agency (NIAA)

  • 1,000 - 50,000 employees

Experiences from the NT

National Indigenous Australians Agency (NIAA)

Hi, I’m Shannyn and I am a Wiradjuri women from Dubbo, NSW. For my regional rotation, I was lucky enough to be based in Darwin.

It was wet season when I visited so most of the communities my team (West Arnhem) visited could only be reached by plane. 

My day would start by heading to the airport for an 8am flight. The number of people going determined how big the plane would be. Typically it would be a 5 seater plane which meant a 100kg weight limit for each person. I know what your thinking – 100kgs? That’s plenty. However, you would often do a food shop in Darwin the day before you go and let me tell you, feeding 3-4 people for a whole week adds up! Then you might have the odd service provider ask if you can bring some items (i.e. sports equipment for the children) over for them. Then you have your suit case and yourself (obviously). Like it said, it all adds up very quickly. The pilot would then give you a quick safety talk and then one lucky person would usually get to ride shot gun with the Pilot. 

The plane ride would typically last for 45 minutes to 1 hour and we would head over Kakadu National Park. Let me tell you, if you ever get the chance to do a scenic flight over anywhere in the NT, take it! It is absolutely stunning! 

Once we landed, the pilots would drive us to our complex (office/housing quarters). When we got to the complex, we would drop our bags off, put on our walking shoes, meet up with our Indigenous Engagement Officer and were back out the door to meet providers. For my team, we would typically meet up with the community school, representatives from the Regional Council, Community Development Program (CDP) representatives and people from other organisations that we fund in the community (e.g. Art Centre, Aboriginal Corporations). 

Each meeting is different but it is never like the meetings in National Office. At the school, your invited to look around and see what the children are getting up to, maybe even get involved in the sport they are playing for the morning. You are introduced to the lovely people who run the School Nutrition Program or are a part of the Remote School Attendance Strategy team. I was even lucky enough to attend the Graduation Ceremony for 2021 and 2022 students where each student was personally walked down the aisle by their family and celebrated with traditional dances from other students. This was an emotional one for me, to see young people thrive and show how strong and capable they are with the support of their families. We would discuss how the school is going with attendance rates and priorities for the school that are coming up. 

Depending on who you meet at the Regional Council depended on where the meetings were held. This could be at the Aged Care/Night Patrol Centre or the Youth Centre or at their main building. No matter where, it would often result in having a cuppa and some bikkies. If you were at the centres, you would often get to chat to some of the locals and have a yarn about what’s been happening the community and what they would like to see happen for their community.  

CDP meetings were a great one to look forward to because they offered so many activities for their job seekers. For example, on my last trip to community, we got to see one men’s group par take in carpentry, the other men’s group were out mowing lawns, the women were sewing some amazing outfits and another group had just started making their own paper from scratch with produce from their own community. It was so amazing to see how excited and how engaged the participants were in what they were learning. 

At lunch time, we would usually head back to our complex for a feed. During this time, you finally switched on your lap top and get some work done. However, this wouldn’t last long because we would often get the odd visitor pop in for a chat. These were one of my favourite things to happen because you got to create some really genuine connections with people in the community. It was these conversations that I would get invited to things happening within the community – like heading on out to some waterfalls (that no outsider would know of) to swim or being invited to go on patrol at night or going croc/wild animal spotting. 

After lunch we would head on out again to visit more service providers or community members. Sometimes we would even help facilitate meetings. I really enjoyed those because all the providers/ people of interest in the community would get together and discuss issues within the community, how they can all come together and resolve the issues and celebrate each other’s wins. Those vibes from seeing the work being done on the ground is something you will never forget and crave moving forward.

Once school finished, we would often head on over to the youth centres to see what activities were being offered to the children. This could range from sports to cooking to dancing. I don’t know about you, but I often forget how happy simple things can light up a child’s day. Just to see them so care free in a safe environment really warms the heart. I was even lucky enough to attend a school disco and see the kids smash out some great dance moves, rap some tunes, play some games and enjoy a good ole sausage sanga. 

By this time, it was usually dark and we would be ready for dinner. Usually one person would cook, another would clean and there would be one supervisor working away ferociously to catch up on work. After dinner, I would catch up on my notes from the meetings and then prepare to do it all over again, the next day. Finally we would get together for a post dinner snack and debrief about the highs and the lows of the day. Those moments were one of the most important for me because everyone was given the opportunity to be heard and understood and it gave me an insight into the complexities of the work regions do, the work of the agency and the challenges people face on the ground. 

I was lucky enough to travel to Katherine, Alice Springs, Daly River, Jabiru and Gunbalanya during my rotation. Like I said, every day was different but in community, it is all about listening to the people on the ground, creating a safe environment for the people on the ground to talk and letting community take the lead. If you get the chance, go regional, open your hearts and minds and let the people on the ground guide you and show you because we have a lot to learn.