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Ali Curung

This is gonna be a long post. I hope you’re interested and have made a cuppa. I have had one of the best showers of my life, a good feed and a talk to my Mum, brother Cliff and good old Tim Bill.

NB. All photos taken with both permission from facilitator and/or person featuring in images. 

I was buddied with a gorgeous RN/RM (Registered Nurse / Registered Midwife) called Yvonne and scheduled to travel to a remote Aboriginal community called Ali Curung on Monday. We arrived at Ali Curung in the afternoon and had a meet’n’greet with the other nurses at the Health Clinic.

We picked up our car and went up to Wycliffe Well where we were staying.  I’ve decided this accommodation needs to change it’s name to Wycliffe will make you really unWell because it was absolutely putrid. Yvonne had to change her room three times because each one was filthier than the last. I couldn’t shower in mine because the shower recess was so filthy it looked like someone had taken a dump and it was simply hosed down the drain! Argghhh!!

The night was interesting though, with a green whip snake slithering along near the BBQ only a few metres from where Yvonne and I were eating our tea in the courtyard. The owner was alerted and although the snake had slithered into the BBQ, the owner thought it was a great idea to get his employees to pour petrol onto the BBQ and set the whole thing alight to either drive out or destroy our poor little fanged friend.

On the Tuesday I spent the day at the Health Clinic with Yvonne but it was a heck of a lot of administration work which I couldn’t do, so I spent a lot of time reading. ‘Bugger this’ I thought, and so did Yvonne, who suggested I spend some time the next day at the local childcare centre. This way I could learn and observe how little kids function and the parenting styles of some of the community. The Manager / worker Michelle was so welcoming and friendly and I spent the day playing with little tackers and learning a lot about Aboriginal parenting and the challenges faced by childcare providers in educating and supporting parents to provide adequately for their children. Unfortunately alcohol and drugs is still fairly rampant in Ali Curung, getting snuck in and feeding already out of control substance addictions. However, the time I spent with the kids watching them play freely and without a worry in the world was really good. Michelle and child care worker Charmayne (and her baby Alina) were so welcoming and fun to be around.

Michelle gave me a tour of the community, calling into the one and only shop to meet owners Scott and Henne.

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Scott & Henne at Mirrnirri Store

Scott, a tattooed goateed guy with more gold on his fingers than what’s left in the entire goldfields, asked if I was ‘qualified’. I erred… and said I have another 6 weeks to go then yeah, I’ll be qualified (I didn’t say I was already an EN). Scott hurriedly replied “great, I need you to have a look at my leg, it’s killing me”. I thought he was joking, so asked “Are you serious?” Scott looked confused and said “Yes I’m serious! Quick, come out here, I’m really busy”. Following him into the back room, he dropped his dacks and pointed to a red patch on his lower leg with a scab in the centre. Looking keenly at me, he gushed “I think it’s a whitetail [spider], what do you think? I squeezed it last night but nothin’ came out but fark it’s killing me!” I asked him a few questions to ascertain if he was going to die or be seriously maimed and with the obvious first question “have you been to the [health] clinic?”. Apparently deadly spider bites aren’t as important as stocking shelves, so I drew a circle around the erythema (redness caused by swelling, infection or inflammation) and dated it, giving him orders to present to the clinic if the redness goes outside the circle or the pain gets worse. Other than that, I ordered, don’t pick it!

Michelle and I then moved onto the Arlpwe Art Gallery meeting curators Ian and Judy Grieve. Ian sadly explained the riots that occurred in Ali Curung last year and how the art gallery was broken into with artefacts of  boomerangs, woomeras and shields stolen to use as weapons. Judy elaborated about the causes behind the riots and the fear they caused in the community. Fire bombs were thrown, police cars were destroyed and the Tactical Response Group had to be sent down from Darwin. Still simmering, Judy said quietly, is the feud. Still simmering.

On a brighter note, I met a local artist called Martha Poulson and was given my very own tour. Martha spent time with me explaining the content of some of her paintings. It was extraordinary listening to her stories and seeing them depicted in her art, I felt so honoured and lucky. Watch the slide show below!

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This morning, Thursday 15th March, I was dropped off at Mirnirri Store and was on check-out duties with another worker called Cynthia. She patiently explained to me how to put not only groceries through but pre-paid gas, power, phone recharges and purchase orders. Electricity and gas are prepaid in the community and sometimes not re-charged meaning fridges, freezers and stoves don’t work. This has a negative impact on the ability to cook nutritious meals especially for growing kids. Scott and Henne provide hot and cold lunches to both Ali Curung and Murray Downs school kids under the School Nutrition Program (SNP) to ensure all school kids are provided with good meals while at school.

If you’re wondering why I did some work at the local store when I’m on nursing placement, don’t worry, I haven’t lost my mind…yet….

I wanted to work at the shop to observe what food families were buying to contribute to the high rate of diabetes, anaemia, low vitamin D levels etc. Two minute noodles were one of the best sellers, second to Coca Cola. It was sorry business in the community, so heaps of 12kg bags of flour were going out the door to make damper. Although it was busy at the store, everyone was patient, both customers and staff.

Later on, Scott called me over to take me out to Murray Downs Station to drop off lunch and meals to the kids at the school. On the way, he relayed stories about their time as proprietors of the local store and where they had come from. By the end of the trip, I knew more about the realities of running a business in a community and even more about the cost of each one of his hefty gold rings adorning each finger.

Scott and Henne are passionate about providing good nutritious food to the Ali Curung community, with Scott showing me the fresh produce he orders in and how he lays his store out to promote hygiene, healthy eating and drinking more water.

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Territorians have something about them, something real and honest. The red dirt is inhaled and starts running through your bloodstream in a very short amount of time. It’s addictive, it’s comforting and it’s friendly. It might be the sun, the earth, the spirituality you can feel around you. Whatever it is, I love it and am looking forward to the rest of my time here!

Oh! and I bought a painting! Check this out! It’s by a young local Ali Curung artist Alvina Beasley who I served at the store only a couple of hours earlier! It’s so beautiful and will be a reminder of the amazing time I had at Ali Curung.

Catch ya round like a rissole! – Rachel 🙂

8 thoughts on “Ali Curung”

  1. Loved it a great read. Enjoyed the time you spent with us in the store. The legs all gd now got to the clinic eventually

  2. Hey Rachel,
    You don’t know me but you’re living my dream right now!! I just found your blog and I’m loving seeing your experiences so far. If you could take pity on a fellow EN/RN student studying with CDU I’d love any tips you have for getting into the program and getting remote placements. I’m in my final year this year subject to placements next semester. Anyhoo here’s my email jeddahollingsworth@gmail.com – if love to hear from you privately 🙂
    Cheers
    Jedda

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