The Ngaanyatjarra Lands is one of the most remote parts of Australia: the area is predominantly desert and is approximately 1,000 kilometres away from the two nearest towns of Alice Springs and Kalgoorlie. Remote travel was frequently discussed in the Ngaanyatjarra Lands. Community members told us that they often need to travel to Alice Springs, Kalgoorlie or Perth to access services, and across the region for cultural reasons, such as funerals, lore or family commitments. Many residents reflected on the challenges and cost of a 2,000 kilometre round trip by car or bush bus to either Alice Springs or Kalgoorlie, places in which they then struggle to find accommodation and transport options. Others told us about the difficulty of simply travelling from one community to another community to visit relatives.
Given the difficulty of travel, residents told us that they rely heavily on services provided in their community through the community office, health clinic, store or school, with many suggestions for how services could be improved to produce better outcomes. Community stores were a common focus, with residents raising concerns about the high cost of food and supplies, and linking the lack of fresh fruit and vegetables to community health issues. Another frequent concern was the high level of staff turnover in service providers, and the problem this turnover creates in building rapport and trust.
Connection to country and culture was described to us as central to life in the Ngaanyatjarra Lands. Leaders expressed pride in their culture and a desire to see it continue for many generations. These leaders told us about efforts to ensure culture is embedded in local schools, the ranger program and local art centres.
Community leaders raised concerns about the lack of engagement and services for young people, particularly given the need for youth to be able to ‘walk in both worlds’. Some leaders said their communities are facing a leadership gap and that unless their young people can be better engaged in education, the future of those communities is at risk. Community members told us that they value education and would like to see more children complete school but that there needs to be support for students transitioning to boarding school in Alice Springs or Perth. They also discussed a new community-driven approach to organised sport in the region as a means of engaging youth and connecting younger and older generations.
With limited employment opportunities in the Ngaanyatjarra Lands, CDP plays a significant role in community life. Participants told us that they were not happy with the activities provided, saying they were made to do meaningless tasks such as collecting rubbish that would not help them get real jobs such as ranger roles. Community leaders told us there had been an increase in domestic violence in the region since CDP was introduced, explaining that for men who had been through lore, menial tasks caused shame and consequently put pressure on domestic relationships in the family home.
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