By Caroline Golden, Telco Together Digital Manager
Recently I was fortunate to spend a week with Telco Together’s Community Partner Red Dust in the remote Indigenous community of Peppimenarti, a 4 hour drive from Darwin.
Red Dust is a health promotion charity focused on improving the health and well-being of Indigenous youth. They deliver innovative and inspirational programs in partnership with remote communities throughout the central desert and top end in the Northern Territory.
Along with seasoned Red Dusters Wayne, Julie, Steve and Troy, our team included footy players from Carlton Football Club, and a handful of corporate volunteers.
Other than the heat, dryness (and yes, dust), what struck me immediately was how welcoming the kids were. Compared to the more reserved inner city kids I’m familiar with, the Peppi school kids were wonderfully friendly and open, making us feel welcome right away.
The focus of our week was supporting Red Dust’s “Healthy Living” program, which is a school based program that uses sport, art, music and dance to teach students about the essential elements to good health including nutrition, hygiene, and physical activity.
My team worked with the students to prepare and cook healthy meals which we then served up to the school for lunch. Although the kids enjoyed cooking (especially the homemade pizza dough!), I did wonder how many would be able to use these practical skills at home. In a remote, isolated community such as Peppi, fresh food costs are so high. While the kids told us they go hunting, and there’s an abundance of tropical fruit trees such as mango and tamarind, the unavoidable fact is that many of their meals would be processed or frozen.
The real rock stars of the week were the AFL footy players. It’s hard to overstate just how important footy is to these kids. We were often asked, “What’s your team?” before “What’s your name?”! The Carlton players were in constant demand for barefoot games of kick-to-kick on the dusty school oval.
Running over the whole week was the Red Dust music video program, which focuses on one aspect of the Healthy Living Program. The students brainstormed ideas with the music team to write and record a song, and then filmed an accompanying video clip. The video theme for our week was about treating each other with kindness and respect. Getting the kids involved in the process gave them a sense of ownership over the project, and made the message more meaningful to them.
It’s clear that Red Dust has a great respect for the communities they work with. It’s a two-way connection, not a charity “with the answers” imposing themselves on a community. The Red Dust team’s solid relationship with the people of Peppi opened doors for us to have experiences that we could never have otherwise had; from visiting culturally significant landmarks to swimming in (croc-free!) waterfall pools. We all went in with open minds, and left on a high thanks to the new experiences and the people we shared them with.
To learn more about Red Dust and what they do, go to www.reddust.org.au