Felicity Royds

Social Science
Social Welfare services
Winter 2012

I was very lucky for the opportunity provided through the Aurora Native Title Internship Program, to spend 6 weeks in Wadeye; a remote Aboriginal community in the Northern Territory [NT]. I was working at Wadeye Safe House, a refuge for women and children at risk of or experiencing domestic or family violence. Wadeye, formerly known as Port Keats is a relatively well known community in the NT. It is the 6th largest town in the NT, and has a pretty interesting history, and it seems a slightly notorious reputation.

A Mission was established in the area around 70 years ago, and the town that has since resulted is comprised of people from the surrounding area, all congregated on Kardu Diminin land. There is continuing tension among different family and clan groups; an aspect of the community which greatly affects the operation of the entire town, including the Safe House. Like other places in the NT [in my experience and opinion] the town hosts a diverse array of people, who contributed significantly to my experiences, and challenged the expectations I held when heading there.

Wadeye Safe House, run by Children Services Support Unit (CSSU) Inc. which is based in Perth, provided an excellent internship experience. The Safe House Manager (who was also a former Aurora intern) was very welcoming, and provided me with work that was varied and interesting, giving a good perspective of the various aspects of people’s lives that the safe house is involved with. She also helped make the experience positive by facilitating other diverse experiences around the community, such as visiting the crèche, rangers, clinic and women’s centre, and attending interagency meetings held between all the service providers.

Being in Wadeye has definitely challenged the beliefs and expectations which I held prior to arriving. I gained insight into the complexity of the issues facing the community, and the practical barriers to finding effective solutions. There is great diversity among the people who come out here to work, and a high turnover of staff and a big culture of fly in-fly out workers. However, the resilience of many people who I was lucky enough to meet, both around the community and at the safe house, is both humbling and inspiring.

As someone who is finishing an undergraduate degree and aspiring to work in remote communities, this internship has also been a great opportunity to check out the kind of jobs available and services provided. Areas of employment I would not have necessarily considered, for example the Department for Housing; I now see as something with great potential, as I realise how diverse and involved their role in the community is.

Participating in and completing an Aurora internship and coming to Wadeye has overall been a very positive experience. It has been an experience I would not have been able to have anywhere else. I feel that the insight into the culture and community was quite extraordinary. The natural beauty of the area is quite stunning, and very different to the east coast of Australia. I feel particularly lucky for the opportunity to meet such people and to be exposed to such an array of experiences. Through this internship I have been offered the opportunity to work at Wadeye Safe House, and I’m very glad to be coming back.

Applications are open each year in March and August for the winter and summer round of Aurora internships on-line via the Aurora website at www.auroraproject.com.au