I’ve fallen in love with the out­back

‘The lo­cals warned me a six-week in­tern­ship in Alice Springs would turn into a life­time’

Sunshine Coast Daily - - YOUR WEEKEND - Freya Kin­den

BE­FORE I tell my story, I would like to pay my re­spects to the tra­di­tional own­ers of this land – the Gubbi Gubbi peo­ple past, present and fu­ture, and recog­nise their unique coun­try, cul­ture, lan­guage and knowl­edge sys­tems.

Grow­ing up on the Sun­shine Coast, it often be­comes easy to for­get the true his­tory of this land, the dis­pos­ses­sion that in­dige­nous peo­ple have faced and the in­ter-gen­er­a­tional trauma it has caused.

It was not un­til I en­rolled in a Bach­e­lor of So­cial Sci­ences (ma­jor­ing in De­vel­op­ment Stud­ies and mi­nor­ing in In­dige­nous Stud­ies) at the Uni­ver­sity of the Sun­shine Coast that I met the knowl­edge­able and pas­sion­ate men­tors who have given me a deeper un­der­stand­ing of Aus­tralian his­tory and what it means to be Aus­tralian.

Af­ter grad­u­at­ing at the end of last year, the first step to­wards be­gin­ning my ca­reer in the in­dige­nous sec­tor was to ap­ply for an Au­rora in­tern­ship: a com­pet­i­tive place­ments pro­gram which places stu­dents and grad­u­ates with a back­ground in so­cial sci­ences, an­thro­pol­ogy and law in NGOs within the in­dige­nous and na­tive ti­tle sec­tors across Aus­tralia.

I was placed at Ninti One: a com­mu­nity de­vel­op­ment and re­search or­gan­i­sa­tion known for its in­no­va­tion in re­mote Aus­tralian re­search.

I was set to move to Alice Springs, in the heart of Cen­tral Ar­rernte coun­try, for a six-week in­tern­ship start­ing in May this year.

The lo­cals warned me from the be­gin­ning: “Six weeks will turn into a life­time”, as ev­ery­one who comes to the North­ern Ter­ri­tory falls in love with it and can­not leave.

Ican con­cur, as I have over­stayed my orig­i­nal six weeks and have now been here for more than two months, with no in­ten­tions of leav­ing any time soon.

As I flew across Queens­land and Cen­tral Aus­tralia, the land­scapes be­neath me dra­mat­i­cally shifted – from the lush table­lands of Queens­land’s hin­ter­land to a vast red desert.

The speck­les of yel­low spinifex and shrubs fol­lowed the curves of an­cient river sys­tems and moun­tain ranges.

I was in awe at how these land­scapes ac­cu­rately rep­re­sented the dream­ing and tra­di­tional art­work of the peo­ple from Cen­tral Aus­tralia.

I still can­not fathom how a pop­u­la­tion some 40,000-plus years ago could en­vi­sion these land­scapes on such a mag­ni­tude with­out ac­cess to a bird’s eye view, bas­ing their very spir­i­tual, cul­tural and phys­i­cal be­ing in re­la­tion to it.

Ninti means knowl­edge in Pit­jan­t­jat­jara, the dom­i­nant lan­guage of the Anangu Pit­jan­t­jat­jara Yankkun­yt­jat­jara Lands peo­ple lo­cated close to Uluru.

This is a true re­flec­tion of the core of Ninti One, as I’m con­tin­u­ally sur­rounded by knowl­edge­able peo­ple.

This abun­dance of knowl­edge has been earned over the years of Ninti One’s op­er­a­tions and re­flects the roots of its re­search with knowl­edge in­form­ing prac­tice.

To me, the most defin­ing char­ac­ter­is­tic of Ninti One’s work is the unique and de­sir­able ap­proach to com­mu­nity de­vel­op­ment and re­search, bas­ing the op­er­a­tion on the em­ploy­ment of Abo­rig­i­nal Com­mu­nity Re­searchers (ACRs).

The ACR pro­gram em­ploys and trains lo­cal peo­ple through­out the North­ern Ter­ri­tory to en­gage with com­mu­ni­ties in a cul­tur­ally and lin­guis­ti­cally sen­si­tive man­ner. Lo­cal knowl­edge is utilised to de­liver sus­tain­able com­mu­nity de­vel­op­ment projects as well as pro­vide in­valu­able so­cial re­search data.

The ACR pro­gram has been so suc­cess­ful that its frame­work is start­ing to be em­ployed na­tion­ally in many dif­fer­ent projects aimed at im­prov­ing the lives of In­dige­nous peo­ple, even on the Sun­shine Coast.

Although bound by the so­cial dys­func­tions of a trau­ma­tised colo­nial past, Alice Springs is a mes­meris­ing place which has the abil­ity to cap­ture the past, the present and the fu­ture all in the one breath of air.

Liv­ing here, you are sur­rounded by Cen­tral

❝here, Liv­ing you are sur­rounded by Cen­tral Ar­rernte sa­cred sites, which tell the spir­i­tual and cul­tural his­to­ries of the lo­cal Ar­rernte peo­ple.

Ar­rernte sa­cred sites, which tell the spir­i­tual and cul­tural his­to­ries of the lo­cal Ar­rernte peo­ple.

The shad­ows of a colo­nial past re­main, with the mis­sion at the Tele­graph Sta­tion be­ing a con­stant re­minder of the white­washed his­tory of the stolen gen­er­a­tions.

The im­pacts of this era are ev­i­dent to­day with fam­ily vi­o­lence, sub­stance use, sui­cide and poor health con­di­tions be­ing far too com­mon.

De­spite all this, Alice has a strong com­mu­nity feel. Peo­ple of all back­grounds come to­gether for events which hope to move the town for­ward.

Just to name a few which have taken place in the two months I have been here, we have had NAIDOC Week cel­e­bra­tions, a “vi­o­lence against women in town camps” protest march, the beanie fes­ti­val, nu­mer­ous arts and crafts events, the 10-year an­niver­sary of the NT in­ter­ven­tion protests, angken­tye an­werne-kenhe im­pene an­thurre (our lan­guage is es­sen­tial) as well as nu­mer­ous open pub­lic fo­rums with lo­cal elders.

Alice has no short­age of mak­ing friends with open-minded and in­ter­est­ing peo­ple.

Week­ends can be filled with hik­ing the West MacDon­nell Ranges, ex­plor­ing gorges, swag­ging it un­der the stars of the desert sky or stick­ing around town where some unan­tic­i­pated but ex­cit­ing events will be bound to be tak­ing place.

The Cen­tral Ar­rernte lan­guage is still alive and em­braced here with bilin­gual schools, town build­ings named in the lo­cal tongue and lan­guage schools open to all.

The en­cour­age­ment of lan­guage is a pos­i­tive ex­am­ple of our move to­ward a shared so­ci­ety and is seen as a way for Abo­rig­i­nal chil­dren to re­gain their sense of iden­tity and cul­ture.

I have just signed up for an Ar­rernte lan­guage class and am so ex­cited to learn the lan­guage as a sign of re­spect to be­ing on coun­try, just as any­one would if they were to visit or live in another coun­try.

For me, the Au­rora in­tern­ship pro­gram has been life-chang­ing.

It opened the door to my first paid role in the in­dige­nous sec­tor, it has al­lowed me to learn among a sup­port­ive team at Ninti One and it has given me the op­por­tu­nity to ex­plore and ex­pe­ri­ence the land in Cen­tral Aus­tralia.


Freya is en­joy­ing ex­plor­ing the Red Cen­tre and soak­ing up its in­dige­nous her­itage. Alice Springs is home to Freya, at least for now.


RED HEART: USC So­cial Science stu­dent Freya Kin­den re­cently com­pleted an in­tern­ship in the North­ern Ter­ri­tory where she as­sisted in a re­search project into car­dio­vas­cu­lar dis­ease but she’s in no hurry to head back home again.


Freya con­tem­plates her new life a long way from Eudlo.

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