Jigalong Army Aboriginal Community Assistance Program

23 July 2019

A couple of weeks ago, in early July, I had the privilege of spending a week with the Army Aboriginal Community Assistance Program in Jigalong, in my home state of Western Australia. This experience is offered as part of the ADF Parliamentary Program, and I'd urge all senators, particularly new senators, to do one of the program experiences. They are definitely worth doing.

I would like to send out a big thankyou to the Martu people, who are the traditional owners of the Jigalong area, the Western Desert and further out. They warmly welcomed me to their community, and I sincerely thank them for showing me around the Jigalong community. I'd also like to thank Major Daniel Palmer for hosting me and Julie Owens, the member for Parramatta, and for the warm welcome that we received at Camp Birt. In particular, I'd like to thank our 'girl gang', Lieutenants Toya and Taya. The 6th Engineer Support Regiment is a mighty fine regiment, and their can-do attitude was evident in everything they undertook.

There are four lines of engagement at Jigalong: training, community engagement, health and construction. Certainly, in terms of community engagement, during NAIDOC Week there were a lot of activities for children at Jigalong. There are regular football games, which the kids absolutely love. They appear on their red-dirt oval on Tuesdays at 5 pm and they really like playing footy with the guys and girls from the 6th Engineer Support Regiment—and those ADF personnel certainly enjoy playing footy with the kids. It's mutual in that respect. There are weekly meetings with elders. There is a great hospitality and construction program underway as well as a health program that has been supporting the local Aboriginal health clinic at Jigalong, adding in a dental program. There is also a vet up there to take care of the dogs. You can see all of the dogs that have visited the vet; they're all sporting new collars.

I'd particularly like to mention two amazing Martu artists, Helen Samson and Dadda Samson. They are two of the Martu women undertaking hospitality training. What they'd like to set up is a tourism venture out to the rabbit-proof fence. I think the rabbit-proof fence is part of most Western Australians' psyches; it's probably even broader than that. To go out there with those Martu women and see that fence was amazing. Of course, they pointed out a lot of particular history and plants along the way. On the way back from the rabbit-proof fence, we set up camp in a very broad riverbed where Dadda cooked this amazing damper. The next day, Julie, when she went out on a similar program, had roo-tail stew with her damper. It was fantastic. We had billy tea and damper over the fire, and exchanged stories and experiences. The women also took us to the old Jigalong community and talked about where they grew up and so on. I really hope that that tourism venture that the Army is supporting the local Martu people on gets off the ground. Jigalong is not that far out from Newman, and I think it would be an attraction for a lot of people who holiday in that region.

I'd also like to thank Alice. Julie and I were very brave; we undertook three PT sessions with the ADF. Alice the trainer—and a superb barista operator, I have to say—kept us pretty fit with PT programs.

We couldn't have been made to feel more welcome by the Martu people and the regiment. It was a terrific week, and we were sad to go. I wish them well. They've got a couple of major events coming up, and then that program will conclude in August. I wish the Martu community well in the partnership that they have created with the ADF.