Over the summer break of 2018, after stressful and intensive cramming for our end of year exams, I embarked on an adventure. It was a calling back to country for me.
I applied during the second semester for an internship through The Aurora Project. Successfully I gained an interview and was given a bunch of hosts to consider and had to prioritize my top 5 preferences out of them all.
My studies include a Bachelor of Science in Psychology, with Criminology as an elective. There were many fields to choose from, and various hosts all over Australia with whom to gain placement with. As I skimmed through the many diverse departments and organizations, I came across a host called Just Reinvest NSW at Maranguka, BOURKE!
My heart skipped a beat. I couldn’t believe there was a slight probability that my studies could bring me back to the place of my fondest childhood memories; travelling for days across the Nullarbor, from the South West coast of Australia to the far North Western outback of New South Wales – beyond the black stump - to Bourke, my mum’s country, Ngemba country.
There in Bourke, (where the population is only 3000, with 30% of that Indigenous), at the Maranguka Community Hub, big things are happening. I had the privilege to be welcomed as part of the team and work as an assistant to the Backbone Co-ordinator. I was given the opportunity to join in on many meetings with different working groups - developing projects and brainstorming programs, as well as facilitating and co-ordinating the delivery of services and operations.
It was mind-blowing to watch and be part of the collaboration of the existing services which come together under Maranguka’s umbrella. Inspirational is an understatement to witness how such pro-active, transparent, forward thinking community leaders can bring about such positive change supported by a progressively developed and established system that is proving to be successful.
“Justice Reinvest is a place-based, data-driven approach to justice that builds stronger communities by redirecting money that would be spent on prisons into early intervention, crime prevention and diversion. It recognises the strong correlation between locations of disadvantage and high rates of contact with the criminal justice system.”
This is what sparks the fire in my belly, to change the way Indigenous people are over-represented in our prison systems and statistically on all negative scales. From this experience alone, I have seen how a shift in the approach of how we manage our own affairs by providing culturally appropriate care for, and becoming self-determinant in representing ourselves sustainably, socially and economically, enabling us to be contributing members of a proud society and community. This paradigm shift can act positively to change the deficit discourse of First Nations peoples collectively in Australia, particularly in disadvantaged communities. Though sadly, I believe this is a gap identified and lacking in other disadvantaged communities all over Australia, which enforces the importance of collaboration between services, agencies, educational institutions and corporations such as the likes of The Aurora Project, enabling work and educational experience opportunities to those passionate about working in the field and genuinely driven to make a difference where needed.
Just Reinvest and Maranguka are blazing the trail when it comes to progressive co-operation with governmental, non-governmental and philanthropic agencies to reduce recidivism, ensuring safer communities, strong families and a sense of pride, respect and belonging shared by its members - young, old and in-between. For this experience and insight I would like to thank Aurora, Just Reinvest NSW and especially Maranguka, Bourke for making this personal and academic experience possible for me and I look forward to many opportunities and adventures in the future to come.