Tag Archives: indigenous

ARMTour in Ntaria

What a brilliant week! I have just had a magical experience, and feel so grateful for the opportunity.

I spent this past week out as an athlete role model on the ARMTours trip to the Northern Territory. It’s a programme run by NASCA (National Aboriginal Sporting Chance Academy) and it involves sending athletes out into Aboriginal communities to serve as role models for the students.

Our job was to support the students in their education during school hours, and engage actively with them through sport afterschool. It was fabulous! I visited Ntaria and was lucky enough to go on a school excursion with a group of students on the first day. We had the opportunity to learn about bush medicine and bush tucker.  Lilly, our teacher for the day, brewed us up some drinking medicine, and it certainly was potent! It was specifically for combating flu, and I reckon I’ll give it a go next time I feel the early signs of a flu (and maybe even a cold?).

I spent a lot of the next few days with the littlies – the pre-school and transition kids. What a great way to spend the day! Play-doh, colouring, singing songs and piecing puzzles together. I simply fell in love with every student in the class, especially when they shared their big smiles whilst playing in the sand pit and kicking a soccer ball around during recess!

The evening of the second night in community the Ntaria ARMTours team headed out to Palm Valley for a gorgeous camp out in the national park. The NT is super green right now after all the rain, with an interesting consequence of a mouse plague! Needless to say I was far happier sleeping in a swag with a mossy net built in. Kept those little critters out of my bedding!

The next day was spent with some of the older students in a cooking class, and then doing a big of design with students during their computers class. That afternoon the Ntaria Roos (as we – the ARMTours team in Ntaria – decided to name ourselves) cooked up a storm and helped the school provide an all community BBQ (interesting job cooking meat for a vego!).  We later gave out awards for the students who had been outstanding in their attention in class, teamwork, attendance, or leadership.

The Ntaria trip was wrapped up with a fantastic session swimming with about 60-70 of the students at the Alice Springs swimming pool, and having an all round brilliant time.

The Ntaria team then met up with the other ARMTours team members who had gone to different communities for a group camp out and BBQ. It was a fabulous opportunity to share stories, learn from the other community experiences, and sleep out under the beautiful NT stars.

I can’t wait for the next opportunity to head out with the ARMTours team!

If you’re curious about the programme, or about NASCA, check out www.nasca.com.au.


Aurukun, A Second Visit

There is something truly magical about Aurukun, Qld. The dusty red earth, the magical and ancient bush, the wild river, and the kind hearted people: it certainly holds a special place in my heart.

Aurukun has also had a profound affect on me. The two occasions that I’ve had the opportunity to visit and spend time in community I’ve felt myself connect with my soul’s energy, shake off the noise and distraction of day-to-day life, and feel a beautiful stillness and clarity within myself. It’s a gift I am grateful to receive from Aurukun, and I’m very thankful to have the opportunity to offer gifts in return – inspiring local kids about the Olympics, playing in a swimming hole with them (equally a gift for me – if not more so!), and just being friendly and chatting with people while walking through town.

That’s not to say that Aurukun doesn’t have its issues. There is significant domestic violence, nowhere near enough housing, a severe lack of employment opportunities and self-empowerment, drugs and alcohol are highly problematic even though it’s a “dry community”, and most nights packs of camp dogs can be heard fighting or howling. It’s a strange and saddening dichotomy, which never fails to truly inspire me to the kindness and strength of the human spirit given that genuine acts of kindness occur under such challenging and often desperate circumstances.

It’s this beauty of the human spirit faced with such unnecessarydisempowerment and challenge that has made me passionately want to work within the field of Indigenous rights in Australia, and to use my skills and experience to help to provide opportunities that may otherwise be unavailable.

Next week I’m off to Ntaria in the Northern Territory with the ARMTours programme (Athletes as Role Models). It’s a programme run by NASCA (the National Aboriginal Sporting Chance Academy). I’ll have the opportunity to spend about a week in community working within a team of role models, and engaging with young people in community through education, sport, and other activities. I’m really excited!

But for now, one thing I really want to say is thank you to my lovely friend Gen. It’s through her generosity and hospitality that I’ve had the opportunity to experience the beauty and challenge of Aurukun, and connect with this deep passion within myself. It’s through her strength of character, integrity, and genuine kindness that ensured she was deeply respected in Aurukun, and that as an extension of her I was welcomed kindly by many local members of community.

Thanks Gen xx


Aurukun, Cape York, Queensland

A couple days after arriving in Aurukun I was invited by the school teachers to present to the kids on the Olympics. I did two presentations on Friday morning, one to a small group of teenagers, one to a big group of kids. Although the teenagers were quite shy and didn’t engage much, it was so beautiful to see their faces light up as I showed different pictures and videos, and wonderful to experience holding their undivided attention for the 30 minute presentation. The younger kids were a completely different ball game! They had questions upon questions, giggled at the video of me boxing in my toggs (they wear bordies and singlets when they swim), and got really excited to get in a group photo. One boy down the back said his uncle is Patrick Johnson. Clearly I didn’t need to teach him anything about the Olympics!

We then headed off on a drive to Weipa, which meant 2 hours of 4-wheel driving on a red dirt road each way. It was awesome! We saw a brumby on the way back, and had wonderful chats. We were dropping off Scott the beekeeper so he could get back to NSW, and were picking up Aurukunian George’s grandson from the airport. While waiting at the airport Gen and I asked George about totems, as we were both very interested to learn more. We discovered that totems (this is specific to Aurukun, I don’t know if it applies elsewhere also) are passed down through the father, unless paternity is in question. George said one of his totems is fire, and he has two, but his young grandson has only one: the rainbow. He personally didn’t know how totems initially came about, so I’m still on the hunt for more information.

Sunday meant a wonderful day out fishing in the most pristine and picturesque environment possible: white sandy beaches,amazing aqua water, deep blue sky, lush green foliage, and bright red rock cliffs. It was magical! There was SO much sea life present in the Cape of Carpentaria also. We saw dolphins, turtles, sharks, loads of fish, and some giant blue fish that half jumped out of the water in the distance. We only kept what we could eat, and feasted that night on a gift of fresh fish from the days catch.

Monday meant I was leaving Aurukun, and my trip back to Cairns was slightly, ummm, interesting? Ok, maybe that’s an understatement. For starters, check-in went something like this…

Steve the check in man, who I’ve never met or seen before: “Michelle is it?”

Michelle: “Yes”, while thinking “How the hell did you know that?!”

Steve: “Weigh the bag. 12kg. Ok, here’s your ticket.”

Michelle – starting gobsmacked at the handwritten ticket: “Thanks”.

I later found out that Steve also doubles as a councillor, and hence knew who I was because I was the only person he didn’t know! There is no security in Aurukun airport, understandably given the airport is really only a little room and a covered concrete space. Baggage claim is a trolley where everyone just claims their own bag, hopefully. I liked it, back to basics.

However… just as our little plane got to the back of the runway ready to take off things got really interesting. One of the ladies down the back of the plane shouted out that the wing was leaking. And it was! It was leaking hydraulic fluid from a busted tube, which could have meant the landing gear wouldn’t have engaged when we went to land in Cairns. Not good! We were all told to head home and wait, and Steve the check in man would drive around to let up know as things developed. What service! As it turned out we spent the next three hours waiting for a new plane to arrive, which finally got off just in time to fly through lightening and bounce all over the place. Needless to say all aboard were very pleased to land safely in Cairns. Over a hundred locals came to wave us off, giving us the famous Aurukun farewell.

I can’t wait for my next opportunity to go to Aurukun. I’ve told everyone that I’ll be back once they get the pool sorted and filled, and will happily teach the kids swimming lessons. Gen asked one of the boys if he thought he could beat me in a race. Fairly he said no, but he was keen for a race if he got a head start! Bring it! I can’t wait J