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Reflections from James Darcy's Jawun executive visit to Central Australia

By James Darcy

I recently took part in a Jawun executive visit to Arrernte country and the Aṉangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (APY) lands in Central Australia. 

It was an opportunity to listen and learn, and over the course of the three days, I was struck by the generosity of those we met. Each of them took time to share their stories and perspectives and contributed to a trip I feel very fortunate to have been part of. It was an extraordinary experience, particularly as we approach the referendum on The Voice. 

We had a very full itinerary, but I wanted to share a few highlights.

We were welcomed to Country by Arrernte Elder Patricia Ansell Dodds,  who shared her compelling story, navigating significant moments in our shared history, including stolen generations, land rights and seeking native title. Later, we heard from a Jawun Emerging Leader, who generously shared her story about how her family broke a cycle of despair, an inspiring testament to determination and the power of identity. These two events highlighted to me the importance of listening to the lived experiences of others. 

We visited an Indigenous-owned rural health service providing renal care in remote communities and delivering very positive healthcare results. We heard from the CEO of Purple House, Sarah Brown, who has spent more than 20 years advocating for the health of remote communities in central Australia. We also learned about the contemporary adoption of traditional healing practices at Purple House – and the bush balms we received have come in quite handy with some running injuries.  

We then enjoyed a trek through Angkerle Atwatye (Standley Chasm), during which we heard from a local guide on the connections of the land, plants and animals. 

We were fortunate to be permitted to travel to the remote APY Land communities of Amata across the South Australian border. To get there, we flew on a four-seater Cessna for a few hours out of Alice Springs, an experience that highlighted the enormity of the challenge of delivering services in remote areas. We heard from two key organisations – health organisation Nganampa Health Council and not-for-profit service provider Regional Aṉangu Services Aboriginal Corporation (RASAC) – about overcoming these challenges and the critical services they can bring to people in the APY Land communities. We shared a meal with members of the community, which included kangaroo tail - which happens to be quite tasty and is a dining experience I won't soon forget. 

Our journey concluded with a powerful panel discussion with Arrernte Elder Pat, Gary Powell and firm friend Shane Webster from Jawun. This gave all of us cause to reflect on the experiences we had just had and the role we play in the lead up to the referendum later this year. 

As I look back at my time on Arrernte country and the APY lands, I have a sense of gratitude. This visit was a once-in-a-lifetime experience that has shaped my understanding of our shared history and the role I play in our shared future. 

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