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Pop 1400 – Aboriginal community

Day temps 36-37

Overnight temps around 20

MONDAY Day 1

Landed at the Doomadgee airport just before 10am after flying out of Cairns at 6am via Mt Isa. Picked up by Les the site manager with another trainer who flew on the same flight to train ‘White Cards’ to the community.
I was taken to my accommodation by Les. The number 3 ‘dongle’ at the rear of the training room was to be my home for the next 2 weeks.

Les introduced me to Rebecca who was to be my mentor and ensure that the kids were picked up every morning. By midday Rebecca had rounded up 11 and we were away. Did a quick overview of our program and what they could expect, some said they were too busy to attend and had family matters to attend to. The number one driving factor up here is family and everything else is secondary. The group were all aged between 18 – 25
I jumped on the bus with them to go home and a few of the group wanted to show me their community plus a few of their local favourite fishing spots.

No Optus service, so no phone conversations with the outside world.
Telstra have a weak signal with low band width and drops in and out depending on the wind. Thank goodness I have the work ipad with Telstra connection :)

TUESDAY Day 2

To walk from one end of the community to other would take no more than 15 minutes, however if they were still asleep, or not ready for the bus, then Rebecca would make another trip to ensure they would show up.
There was funeral service scheduled this afternoon so many did not show today. Those that did listened to each others ‘stories’ for the morning, before finishing up at midday to get home to be ready for the service. We made them lunch and delivered them all home again on the bus around 1pm.

WEDNESDAY Day 3

Many of the participants had celebrated the funeral service fairly hard last night and consequently the turnout was low and the community was very quiet. This was a day where I really got to understand the community. They taught me some language, and we walked to the river where they chopped a tree branch to make me a boomerang. During the time at the workshop they got present to their creative, cultural and leadership skills. They realised that they were the ones to lead the community in to the future. No one else was coming.
A couple of representatives from Queensland Swim called in looking for volunteers to work as Life Savers. The boys did not hesitate in accepting the training. I drove them over to the Primary School pool at 4 pm where we spent an hour with the ‘dummies’ learning the DRSABC of Life Saving.

THURSDAY Day 4

By 10am and 3 bus trips, we had most of the mob in the ‘cool room’ ready to get the day under way. Today we discussed what was important to them and the community, plus how they could make a difference here in Doomadgee.
They came with amazing values, including education, knowledge and travel.
The only event that comes to Doomadgee is the Rodeo every August.
We looked at what is missing here and they came up with a ‘Doomadgee Sports Day’ where they could have specified aged groups competing in a range of sports. Already they have decided who would lead the committee and which sports they were going to have and the age divisions. Next week, 2 of the Gold Coast Titans are visiting and I’ll have them talk to our Leaders in our Mob.

Around 2pm news had gotten to us that a road fatality just on the outskirts of town had occurred. The families insisted that they come home. There were riots around as blame was being fought out on the streets. Extra police were flown from Mt Isa as the evening wore on. The Royal Flying Doctor Service flew in and transferred the body out just after midnight amongst the grieving and wailing of the locals. The last extra service flew in over our heads at 2:45am. There are still 3 others on the critical list from the accident.

FRIDAY Day 5

Today was declared a day of Shame by community. No one was on the streets and no attendees for any programs showed. There is only one store here and they were shutting at noon as respect. One of the Elders walked by and checked in to make sure we were not working.
Les suggested we stay locked in the compound until Tuesday, as Monday is Labour Day in Queensland. The weekend looks like a perfect time to catch up on my laundry and the back catalogue of reading material I have.

SATURDAY, SUNDAY & MONDAY Days 6,7 & 8

The weekend included the Monday Queensland public holiday as Labour Day.
Plenty of reading and writing diary and blog updates.
Watched the Rabbitos win the NRL grand final.
Dropped a lure into the river at the end of the street, no takers.
Another fatality from the Thursday accident, and a young fella had his stomach cut open when he jumped into a local billabong. This resulted in two separate flights by the RFDS over the weekend.

TUESDAY Day 9

Had a new starter today. Many still away still in shock over the last few days events in the community.
I used this time to assist 5 of my mob in getting their ‘white cards’. I have a couple who struggle to write but can understand the requirements. They saw this as a potential opportunity for casual employment. Currently on the outskirts of town there are new besser brick houses on slabs being built by contractors. Occasionally they call in looking for labourers for the day who must have ‘white cards’.
These houses are being built to alleviate the overcrowding of current accommodation.

WEDNESDAY Day 10

Another new starter today. This was an amazing day where we addressed Integrity and applying it to a project that would benefit the community. We mapped out a plan to set up a Doomadgee Sports Carnival, to direct the energies of the younger kids into sport, as opposed to causing damage and vandalism around town. They have designed several underage teams, the team names, and across several sports including Rugby, cricket, AFL & basketball.
Elijah brought in his didgeridoo and played while Hilton & Randell showed me how to dance several dances.
In the afternoon we went out bush in search of a Gutta-percha tree to make some musical boomerangs.
On the way back we called across to the top of the Nicholson River and saw a croc sunbathing on a rock who took off when he heard us. This didn’t stop a few of my mob going for a swim. I declined as I think the crocs prefer white meat!
It was almost 5pm when I dropped off the last of the group.
Got to see the red moon (Mars eclipse) which matched the colour of the soil tonight.

THURSDAY Day 11

Today we had some awesome conversations around responsibility, skills and attributes. They saw they had the capabilities to tackle just about anything that was placed in front of them. Late in the afternoon two blokes from NRL Qld and two of the Gold Coast Titan players visited us. They are looking for leaders in the community to assist in setting up a Rugby carnival for U17 players next month with a view to running a carnival in March 2015. A few of my mob were keen to do this and amazed how their ideas from yesterday were showing up today.

FRIDAY Day 12

Final day. Started at 8:30 with Randell who wanted to finish off my boomerangs today. Five showed up today to meet with the NRL boys and the titans. We escorted Jake out to the airport and headed over to the Primary School for our meeting and planning. The meeting went through until lunchtime and lunch was provided by the school. The team were given a few set tasks to do and were keen to get underway. By the end of the day we had a team name – the ‘SPD (Strong, Proud & Deadly) Crew and the ‘Doomadgee Crocs’ even had a logo.
We did a quick trip across the causeway where they showed me the ‘family tree’ which is just outside the shire limit. It’s the place closest to town where they can consume alcohol legally. There is a stack of empty green cans and yellow cans under this tree. There were a couple of blokes sitting on eskys enjoying a few as we drove by, this is the middle of scrub at 40 plus degrees.
On the way back we spotted a few canvas dwellings set way back off the road. There are many who live this way, out of town.
Dropped them all back around 4pm and Les drove me over to check in for my 5pm flight.
Unfortunately he had to drive me back as there was a 2 ½ hour delay.
Flew out just after 7:30 and landed in Cairns (via Mt Isa) just prior to midnight.

My OBSERVATIONS of this community

• Family come first
• Time is concept
• Possessions are not personal
• Tidying up is not necessary
• Roaming dogs (buganewn) and horses (yaramin) are ignored
• The Bush is home to many
• Goanna is the preferred meat
• Gul Gul (long necked turtle) is the best seafood (2hr drive to the coast)
• Local fruits are the best at the end of the wet season (and free)
• Canned corned beef with tomato sauce can be every meal
• Fridays are optional
• Restrictive alcohol laws do not work
• Alcohol destroys families
• Nothing is urgent
• Connection is vital
• Language is alive
• Belongings cannot be touched, or moved, after death unless a smoking ceremony has taken place
• Uncles, Aunties, Brothers and Sisters are terms of endearment
• Listening and understanding is the key to connection and trust
• Unless you are trusted you will never see the true beauty and real gems of this land

Phil