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Baden Holt
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Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
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Slow change

Posted by Baden Holt over 6 years ago

Lessons learned about changing a Remote Indigenous Community for the better.

It's good to reflect on a crazy yet rewarding year in Attitjere. There were many challenges with my middle manager and teacher, both of who were moved on. The upper levels of the education department are amazing people.

Efforts to plant trees and grow a demonstration garden were frustrated.  But one began to notice a surreptitious community wide planting and watering effort. The community had taken notice. By spring well watered oranges, mulberries, beans, sunflowers and newly planted citrus were blossoming.

The first reason was there is a lot of pride in this community. Secondly people didn't want to be told or helped. They took complete genesis and ownership of the growing food idea. Thirdly there is security of land in established family compounds and at the school.

The first point comes partly from the unique history of this area and family rivalry. The second comes from a healthy backlash towards paternalism. The third is interesting, as technically this is government land and house ownership or lease is not possible. Practically though, each house has a deeply entrenched multigenerational family structure. I wondered what it would do for my graduating students to be able to take up a plot of land to build a house as part of a community program and cultivate their personal space as they please? It would be mind blowing if done right.

In October I graduated 6 amazing students in Agrifoods Cert I including one girl. It was the first time in Northern Territory that a group of remote students have acheived Cert I level in one year.

I like to think the place was greener and many young people, from the schoolkids looking up to us to the older guys who were motivated to get jobs, have more hope and direction for the future. My role was passed on to the very capable husband of the middle years teacher.

My Pathways, the successor to CDEP (work for the dole) has been adapted to local conditions better using local resources. They even plan to put labour towards building pallet gardens for houses that desire them.
The Central Land Council has taken back the lease of nearby Oratripra Station and plans to bring Stephen Craig who set up an Indigenous  training station at Mistake Creek to run it. Bring on the colt starting and indigenous run stock camps.
The CLC has also brought in a new manager to Huckitta station who hopefully has more understanding of Indigenous workers.

In the end I have come to a grudging respect for the government's process.  Monitoring of results and feedback, transparency, and the understanding that it's a long term process seem to be getting them in the right direction, slowly but faster than before. Ultimately government will be able to get out of the way and let people run their own affairs.
I'm proud to think my family's history with the Eastern Arunta people, culminating in the Plenty Pathways Project, started by my cousin Kate, has helped catalyse this.

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Dennis Argall
Dennis Argall : Hi Baden

This is a remarkable story and a huge credit to you! As well as to the community.

I don't know if you have seen this: worth catching, about a Chinese man and his way in, finding respect as a fellow artist in Arnhem Land.

You must have been allocated some valuable kinship status to have your thoughts taken up, but it surely also reflects a respect you show them.

Looking forward to more news!



Posted over 6 years ago

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Other Teachers: Warren Brush, Bill Mollison, Nadia abu yahia Lawton, Brad Lancaster
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