YFER Directors Deb and Tracy recently headed back to Arnhemland, a place very special to them in the Northern Territory where they have been running Core of Life since 2006.
First stop was Milingimbi Island, the largest island of the Crocodile Islands group off the coast of Arnhem Land. Milingimbi lies approximately 440 kilometres east of Darwin and 200 kilometres west of Nhulunbuy.
Aboriginal people have occupied this area for more than 40,000 years. A settlement was established on the island in 1923 by the Methodist Overseas Mission. The Mission attracted aboriginal people from eastern clan groups to the island. The traditional owners of Milingimbi and the surrounding seas and islands are Yan-nhangu people speaking YolnguMatha.
English is a second, third or fourth language for most Aboriginal residents of Milingimbi.
Tracy and Deb were supportedby the amazing girls teacher Anita and her Yolgnu support team, Maggie the remote visiting midwife and her Yolgnu health worker Boyan, and Marlene Liddlerepresenting the Strong Women Strong Baby Strong Culture program along with several local ladies.
Approximately 30 girls undertook the program for the day which involved a lot of laughter, some great roleplays and some really important information sharing both in English and Yolgnu Mata.
As in many remote communities there are high levels of teenage pregnancy and it is so important that this reproductive health and relationships education is shared in a timely manner in a way that is easily understood, fun, yet respectful to the importance of the material and sensitive to local culture. Given the difficulties in accessing regular maternity services many women will not receive any formal antenatal education before they have their first child.
Tracy and Deb also visited Gapuwiyak community (called Lake Evella in English) is an Aboriginal community located in north-easternArnhemland approximately 2.5 hr drive out of Gove. The population is about 1000 people and is serviced by a barge from Darwin once a week that comes up the Buckingham River.
Gapuwiyak means "brackish water". (Gapu water - Wiyak salty).
Tracy and Deb have visited Gapuwiyak several times over the past 6 years and looked forward to revisiting the community. The school, health centre, aged care centre and RJCP (remote jobs and communities program) all played an instrumental role in bringing the COL day together. The girls had baked and prepared food, the elder women joined in to help with language and cultural stories and Maggie the visiting remote midwife shared with the girls, local helpful information about how women can access care during pregnancy and the procedures that unfold when a local woman is due to have a baby.
The girls were enthusiastic and well engaged. They were also very respectful of their senior women and listened intently whenever they were sharing stories or role playing.
Teaching staff have supported COL for several years now, to ensure it remains an essential part of the girls learning. Girls are encouraged to return to school should they have a baby in their school years and supported closely to finish their education and even take on tertiary education / training.
Tracy and Deb would like to thank all those involved in the trip and look forward to returning to the region later in the year to visit several more communities.
If you would like further information on this work please contact us at [email protected]