Posted on Monday, August 10, 2020 by Hannah Hellyer

The International Day of the World’s Indigenous People aims to increase awareness about the protection and promotion of the rights of all Indigenous peoples. The date marks the first meeting of the UN Working Group on Indigenous Populations in 1982. On 23rd December 1994, it was decided that the International Day of the World’s Indigenous People would be observed on 9th August every year.

According to UNESCO, Indigenous people live in all regions of the world and own, occupy or use some 22% of the global land area. Numbering to at least 370-500 million and speaking almost 7000 languages collectively, they represent a significant part of the world’s cultural diversity. Unfortunately, many Indigenous peoples have been marginalised and dispossessed of their rights to ancestral land, through harsh colonisation and modern developments. This has resulted in a significant loss of language, culture and tradition in many Indigenous communities, including our own here in Australia.

As stated by UNESCO:

"Many indigenous peoples continue to be confronted with marginalization, extreme poverty and other human rights violations. Through partnerships with indigenous peoples, UNESCO seeks to support them in addressing the multiple challenges they face, while acknowledging their significant role in sustaining the diversity of the world’s cultural and biological landscape.”

Featured above: International Day of the World’s Indigenous People 20199

Supporting Watarrka’s Indigenous community through 2020

There is no doubt that the global COVID-19 pandemic has made 2020 one of the most challenging years of this century. In light of the International Day for the World’s Indigenous People, our Team reflected on this time and recounted the actions we took to protect the community from the pandemic. 

With the impacts of Covid-19 felt worldwide as early as January, the Watarrka Foundation was quick to assist the Watarrka community as part of a nationwide action plan which encompassed approximately 150,000 First Nation Peoples living in remote communities around Australia. In response to these worrying circumstances, the Watarrka Foundation funded a program titled ‘Feed the Watarrka Community’. It was designed to reduce travel into Alice Springs, which subsequently reduced the risk of locals unknowingly bringing the virus back from town. The program supported approximately 60 adults and children from the Wanmarra, Lilla and Ulpanyali communities by providing them with meals and staple goods. We are pleased to report that the program was successful as there were no reported cases of COVID-19 in the Watarrka region.

Featured above: Justin Burrill (Feed the Watarrka Community Chef) delivery food to Watarrka locals

To learn more about our COVID-19 prevention efforts, read our archived article here vid-19-in-the-watarrka-community

To learn more about the International Day of the World’s Indigenous People visit rlds-indigenous-peoples.html

To support the Foundation and our projects within the Northern Territory, make a donation at

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Posted on Tuesday, July 28, 2020 by Hannah Hellyer

With ‘Students at the Core’ as their underpinning philosophy, CareerTrackers have made wonderful contributions to the tertiary education outcomes of Australia’s young Indigenous adults. In their work supporting students through their university studies and correlating professional development, this decade old non-profit has built a strong community of CareerTrackers interns and Alumni.

CareerTrackers was established in 2009 with the goal of creating pathways and support systems for young Indigenous adults to attend and graduate from university with high marks and valuable industry experience through paid, multi-year internships. This goal has been well and truly accomplished - within three months of graduation, 95% of CareerTrackers Alumni find full-time employment. This employment often results from opportunities that arise through intern experiences with sponsorship organisations. As of 2020, the Alumni community has grown to an incredible 1073 highly educated Indigenous professionals.

Links to the Foundation

The Watarrka Foundation has had the privilege of receiving ongoing support from CareerTrackers for many years. Mostly notably, they provide us with staff, interns and alumni from their organisation to assist with the happenings of the annual Sports & Storytelling Festival held in Lilla. We believe their contributions have been of great benefit to the kids of the Watarrka region and in return, the invaluable experience of visiting a remote Indigenous community has been enlightening for CareerTrackers members.

Featured above: Sports & Storytelling Festival 2018

Manny Bell – CareerTrackers Alumni

This month we spoke to Manny Bell, a CareerTrackers alumni, about his experience with the organisation and connections to the Watarrka Foundation. As a proud descendant of the Wakka Wakka and Biri Gubba people, Manny holds strong ties with his heritage and is an advocate for the education of Indigenous youth. After being accepted into the Bachelor of Law at the University of Queensland, Manny sought to establish ties with Indigenous organisations and to expand his network whilst studying. After attending a presentation at the university, he soon discovered CareerTrackers. For Manny, this was a life changing experience:

"Walking into that room was by chance – but it would turn out to be the start of my journey to becoming a lawyer with Dentons. Little did I know, CareerTrackers would go on to become the premier internship program for Indigenous university students – providing us with a foot in the door with Corporate Australia.”

During his first year of university, CareerTrackers offered Manny an internship with a law firm in Sydney. Although based in Brisbane, Manny accepted this opportunity as he felt it invaluable for skill development and it would give him the chance to show Corporate Australia that Indigenous people are adept. CareerTrackers assisted Manny with the set up of his CV and prepared him for interview. It paid off as Manny ended up working every university holiday in Sydney, which later resulted in a graduate position offer with Dentons. He has since been admitted as a solicitor to the Supreme Court of New South Wales. Through his internship experience, Manny was able to build a strong network with Dentons and the wider CareerTrackers network of interns and alumni working in Corporate Australia. 

During his time at Dentons, Manny gravitated towards a partner named Campbell Hudson, who shared a mutual interest in supporting remote Aboriginal children through their education ‘On Country’. Manny was introduced to the annual Sports and Story Telling Festival held in Lilla, a project that had been established the year prior. As stated by Manny:

"The Festival brings together the surrounding schools for 3 days of sports, drama and cultural activities. The feedback from the teachers is that kids really look forward to the Festival each year – and the teachers use the Festival as an incentive for the kids to aim high with their schoolwork. CareerTrackers has been involved with sending their staff, interns and alumni to the Festival for many years. I have worked closely with other CareerTrackers alumni to organise the Festival – in particular Sam Leak and Will Leak at Westpac who have been dedicated to ensuring the connection between Dentons-Westpac-Watarrka Foundation-CareerTrackers stays strong. Recently, the partnering organisations extended a special invitation to CareerTrackers’ Intern of the Year to attend the Lilla Festival.”

Featured above: Sports & Storytelling Festival 2019

CareerTrackers have now sent more that 30 staff, interns and alumni to the Lilla Festival. Manny believes this trip is special because it gives these individuals an opportunity to connect to country and visit sacred sites around Central Australia. 

Manny’s story is exemplary of the invaluable support and guidance offered by CareerTrackers. The organisation’s work in supporting young Indigenous adults to become leaders in their field and their ongoing work with Watarrka Foundation does not go unrecognised. Our team are grateful for their involvement in the Sports and Storytelling Festival and we look forward to continuing this vital work with them into the future.

To support the Foundation and our projects within the Northern Territory, make a donation at

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Posted on Monday, July 06, 2020 by Hannah Hellyer

Storytelling has always been an essential part of Indigenous culture. It is a powerful means of passing on knowledge, history and philosophies to new generations. It invites conversation, questioning and moral inquiry. It challenges our perception of the world and its many complexities, helps us heal from the traumas of the past and weaves a deep connection with community. Ultimately, it influences how we care for others and for country.

In recent months, storytelling has taken centre stage as the world turned its attention to  the injustice’s experiences by people of colour. Black Lives Matter, a movement founded in 2013 in response to the acquittal of Trayvon Martin’s murderer and recent death of George Floyd, has re-ignited a collective interest in our own justice system and the treatment of Indigenous and Torres Strait Island peoples in Australia. For non-Indigenous Australians, the past few months has stimulated a newfound interest in the histories and stories of our people. We see this is a unique opportunity to learn and grow as a nation. As such, the Watarrka Foundation felt it important to share some voices of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples through a selection of highly acclaimed films, books, podcasts and other digital resources.

Recommended Watching

In My Bloods It Runs (2020)

‘In My Blood It Runs’ is an observational feature documentary following 10-yr-old Arrernte Aboriginal boy Dujuan as he grows up Alice Springs, Australia. The documentary addresses Indigenous youth detention and the ongoing removal of children. More than just a documentary, the team behind the film are working with a range of national partners to deliver an impact campaign strategised in consultation with Dujuan, his family and an advisory group of senior Arrente and Garra Elders and leaders. To learn more, visit

Gurrumul (2018)

‘Gurrumul’ tells the story of Indigenous artist Dr G Yunupingu who resided on Elcho Island in far North East Arnhem Land. Blind from birth, Dr G Yunupingu wrote and recorded songs in YolÅ‹u languages and English. Considered one of the most important voices of our time, this documentary explores the artists deep connection to community and Country. Watch the trailer here:

Mabo (2012)

‘Mabo’ is a film that follows the battle waged by Torres Strait Islander man Eddie Koiki Mabo to bring about native land title legislation. This film spans the iconic land rights campaigner’s life, from growing up on Murray Island in the Torres to spearheading the High Court to overthrow terra nullius. To watch the full film, visit

For the kids: Little J & Big Cuz (2013 – Present)

‘Little J and Big Cuz’ is a tv series that follows the adventures of two Indigenous Australian kids living with their Nanna and Old Dog. The series offers fun and educational Indigenous and First Nations content from Australia. To watch the series, visit

Recommended Reading

‘Growing up Aboriginal in Australia’ by Anita Heiss (2018)

‘Growing up Aboriginal in Australia’ is an anthology recounting childhood stories of family, country and belonging. Accounts from well-known authors and high-profile identities sit alongside those from newly discovered writers of all ages. All of the contributors speak from the heart – sometimes calling for empathy, oftentimes challenging stereotypes, always demanding respect. Purchase the book from Indigenous publish house Magabala

‘Talking to My Country’ by Stan Grant (2016)

After writing a short but powerful piece for the Guardian in response to the 2015 Adam Goodes debate, journalist Stan Grant followed it up with ‘Talking to My Country’. The book is a personal, passionate and powerful response to racism in Australia and the sorrow, shame, anger and hardship of being an Indigenous man. You can purchase the book here

For the kids: ‘Same, but little diff’rent’ by Kylie Dunstan

Told in the stunning collage artwork for which Kylie Dunstan is acclaimed, the story is related by a child living in a southern city and her friend Normie, who lives in the top end. As they compare notes about their lives, activities and interests, they discover how very much they have in common, despite their contrasting environments. Purchase a copy of this classic here 

Recommended Listening

Podcast - Curtain Podcast: Episode 68

Co-Hosts Amy McQuire and Martin Hodgson look at the wave of protests sweeping the world following the horrific killing of George Floyd by police. They examine similar cases in Australia, why the media is so inept at reporting on these issues and what is required to get justice for Aboriginal people in this country. Listen here

Podcast - Always was, always will be our stories

This podcast features inspiring conversations with Indigenous role models and trailblazers. The podcast is written, hosted, produced and edited by Marlee Silva, on the unceded lands of the Dharrawal people. Listen here

For the kids: Little Yarns

‘Little Yarns’ is a podcast series that takes young listeners on a journey to a different nation to learn a first word on Country. Ideal for families listening together at home or as a listening resource in early learning centres, Little Yarns explores the diverse languages, stories and countries of Indigenous Australia. Listen here

Other Resources

Common Ground

Common Ground is a website devoted to sharing First Nations cultures, histories and lived experiences. They aim to help Australians see the value of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures through providing access to engaging and authentic content that will help bridge gaps in knowledge. Visit the website here

Walking Together (2020)

An online collection of content exploring Indigenous people and the Black Lives Matter movement, curated by the ABC. The online resource was developed in response to an increase in Australians who would like to do something to help improve reconciliation. Visit the collection here

To support the Foundation and our projects within the Northern Territory, make a donation at

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Posted on Thursday, June 25, 2020 by Hannah Hellyer

Indigenous music refers to music owned, composed and/or performed by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. It includes musical styles originating before European settlement, and musical styles which have been taken up by Indigenous musicians since. Music plays an important social and spiritual role in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and is closely linked with dance, ceremony and storytelling.

In this article we will be focusing on a broader understanding of traditional Aboriginal music which, like the 250 or more languages of their culture, varies in different parts of the continent. Many of the musical styles are still practiced in northern and central parts of Australia but these performance traditions, which are among the oldest in the world, are also among the most endangered.

Aboriginal music instruments and practices

Traditionally Aboriginal music is primarily vocal. Singers are often accompanied with percussion and several other singers of the same gender. Tribes accompany this with various instruments including boomerangs, clubs, sticks, hollow logs, drums, seed rattles and of course the didgeridoo. Hand clapping and lap/thigh slapping are also common. Most instruments fall into the idiophone class, where instruments consist of two separate parts which are stuck together to give a percussive sound. In constructing their instruments, Aboriginals use the resources at hand including hollowed logs, animal skins and shells.

Music often accompanies performance and ceremony, which traditionally take place without written prompts. These performances often involve dancing: vigorous and energetic male performances and more contained but still virtuosic female performances. Other ceremonial practices include body painting, rock painting, costumes and the use of props.


Music of the Dreamtime

Music and the Dreamtime are indisputably linked. The word ‘Dreamtime’ refers to the myths explaining the origin of Aboriginal land, people and natural phenomena. These stories provide a source of social organisation and mores, a blueprint for Aboriginal law and helps to explain the relationship between Aboriginal people and the natural world. 

Most traditional Aboriginal songs are believed to have come from the Dreaming. During ceremonies, songs reference the Dreaming through names, natures and activities of the creative ancestor heroes. These songs, which are often related to ancestors and particular areas of land, are owned and sung by living relatives. Singing these songs is an assertion of the signer’s right to the land and also encourages the tradition of oral histories, ensuring that stories are passed down to younger generations.

Song Lines

In addition to telling stories of the Dreamtime, Aboriginal music traditions also provide a means of navigating and connecting to the land. A Songline, also called dreaming track, is a path across the land (or sometimes the sky) which marks the route followed by localised "creator-beings" during the Dreaming. The paths of the Songlines are recorded in traditional song cycles, stories, dance, and art, and are often the basis of ceremonies. A knowledgeable person is able to navigate across the land by repeating the words learnt through song, which describe the location of landmarks, waterholes, and other natural phenomena.

Links to the Watarrka Foundation

The Watarrka Foundation is passionate about delivering educational opportunities that help Aboriginal communities stay connected with cultural histories. As stated earlier, the traditions of song and performance are some of the oldest in the world but also exist as some of the most endangered. These traditions are critical as they are an expression of philosophy, ancestry and Aboriginal beliefs. Without urgent action and education, surviving mores, such as the tradition of music and performance, will be at risk of disappearing within a generation or two. The Watarrka Foundation is here to work with our community to avoid such loss of culture and in turn, give the Aboriginal kids of today a better future.

To support the Foundation and our projects within the Northern Territory, make a donation at

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Posted on Monday, June 22, 2020 by Hannah Hellyer

Founded on the principles of strong community connections, good health and sustainability, The Source Bulk Foods has made a meaningful impact on community wellbeing and environmental awareness in Australia and abroad. Established in 2012 in the quiet town of Mullumbimby, the zero-waste supermarket has since grown into a highly successful organisation whose stores can now be found in NZ, UK, Ireland, Singapore and Canada. Their success is a shared one as they generously invest many of their resources back into local communities, educational initiatives and philanthropic organisations. Most notably, The Source Bulk Foods has had a long-standing interest and investment in Indigenous affairs, namely around the education and wellbeing of Indigenous children.

The Watarrka Foundation has had the privilege of gaining ongoing support from the Source Bulk Foods over the past few years. Their contributions have ensured that events, such as our annual Sports and Story Telling Festival, and other important educational initiatives are able to go ahead. This month we interviewed The Source Bulk Foods co-founder and Managing Director Paul Medeiros about the organisation’s humble beginnings, their ongoing work with community and ties to the Watarrka Foundation.

Featured above: Paul and his wife Emma

Q - Introduce yourself - who are you and what is your role with The Source Bulk Foods?

My name is Paul Medeiros, my wife Emma and I started The Source Bulk Foods in Mullumbimby NSW in 2012, after escaping the Sydney life and corporate world. We bought a small fruit and Veg store with just the two of us and a friend running it and grew the little shop with the support of the community by expanding into a deli and mini healthy supermarket, employing 9 people. When The Source gained momentum, we sold the fruit shop and began developing The Source brand and concept. Now Emma manages our company social media and branding and I act as Managing Director and International Development.

Q – Tell us a little about the business. What are it's main activities and where is it located?

Although our business focuses on natural, organic grocery ingredients, wholefoods and dry goods, our motivations for starting The Source Bulk Foods was to move away from processes, chemical filled food and ingredients pushed by the supermarkets and distance ourselves from the overwhelming packaging and plastic waste associated with food purchases and waste in general. We see ourselves as educators of the values and principles that we created the business on and therefore our business is to make people aware and educate on the issues around healthy food, sustainability and waste.

Currently we have 60 stores in Australia, with 5 new stores opening in the next 6 months. We have taken our values, principles and brand to NZ, UK, Ireland, Singapore, Canada and are now exploring the US market. Across the group, all our stores employ approx. 500 team members and our support team consists of about 35. Our store owners are families with the same values, local to their community and our focus is to develop local growers, manufacturers and suppliers in each region.

Q - What aspirations does the Source Bulk Foods have for working in philanthropy and the community?

When we bought the fruit shop and moved to Mullumbimby, our purpose was to start a family. We had a genuine intent to become part of the community and involve ourselves as much as possible to establish meaningful connections and personal relationships that would connect us and our children to the area. We contributed and donated to many local schools, community fund raising projects, environmental causes and local charity food distribution kitchens. 

Through the fruit shop, we also had wonderful opportunities to be involved in organisations that improved the community to a greater extent. I was on the original committee that reinstated the Mullumbimby Chamber of Commerce and through that we established many projects, rallied support and worked with council to improve the overall strength of the town. I was also a founding member of the Mullumbimby Farmers Market and community gardens, that offered financial support, time and opportunity to many local growers to sell their produce on an ongoing basis. Both are still going strong and doing wonderful things for the area. We were also involved in a community action group to fight the ‘steamrolling’ of a major supermarket into our community. Unfortunately, we were not so successful. Over time The Source Bulk Foods developed a bond with Sea Shepherd and The Watarrka Foundation and contributed a percentage of sales of some of our product to donate to the organisations.

Our business has been able to replicate our community spirit throughout our stores and international regions by supporting local community projects at store level and encouraging each family to nature community ties as we have. Our teams and customers have helped to keep well above 50M plastic bags out of production, saved more than 500 tons of plastic and waste from entering our waters and contribute to Eden Reforestation project working with smaller communities worldwide by employing locals to plant native trees to regain their natural eco systems.


Q - Why does The Source Bulk Foods contribute to the Foundation?

Mullumbimby is a caring community full of people with various passions based on community development. During our time in the area we became involved with and supported the projects that were not only close to our hearts, but that we felt we not well supported. Having children of our own also created a deep-seated drive to help children in any capacity. Indigenous education in particular with children was an area we gradually saw was well under supported and although we are not a huge company, we needed to do anything in our power to contribute. Unfortunately, the bigger companies focus on what gives them the most coverage and marketing / donation return and do not focus on what they can truly make a worthwhile impact on.

The Watarrka Foundation would like to say thank you to Paul, Emma and his team for their generosity and ongoing support of the Foundation. Their support has been invaluable as we continue on our journey towards creating a thriving, independent and self-reliant community in the Watarrka region.

Find out more and your nearest The Source Bulk Foods store on their website

To support the Foundation and our projects within the Northern Territory, make a donation at

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Posted on Wednesday, May 27, 2020 by Hannah Hellyer

Celebrated from May 27th to June 3rd, National Reconciliation Week is a time for Australians to come together and learn about our shared histories, cultures and achievements. During this week, Australians of all ages, cultures and beliefs are encouraged to reflect on how they can contribute to achieving reconciliation.

The concept of reconciliation in Australia was formed on five critical dimensions; race relations, equality and equity, unity, institutional integrity and historical acceptance. As stated by Reconciliation Australia:

"Reconciliation is a journey for all Australians – as individuals, families, communities, organisations and importantly as a nation. At the heart of this journey are relationships between the broader Australian community and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.”

National Reconciliation Week (NRW) started in 1993 and was originally titled the ‘Week of Prayer for Reconciliation’. It was renamed in 1996 by the Council for Aboriginal Reconciliation. The dates, which remain the same every year, commemorate two significant milestones in the reconciliation journey— the successful 1967 referendum, and the High Court Mabo decision respectively. In 2000, approximately 300,000 people walked across Sydney Harbour Bridge to show their support for NRW. These walks became some of the largest displays of public support for a single cause in Australian history. Today the week is celebrated by a vast array of businesses, educational institutions, organisations and individuals.

Featured above: Reconciliation in Australia - Our History, Our Story, Our Future

How is National Reconciliation Week celebrated?

With social distancing restrictions in place for the foreseeable future, National Reconciliation Week will take a vastly different form in 2020. Traditionally, the week is celebrated via a variety of community events including panel discussions, concerts, film screenings and other gatherings of people. In light of our current circumstances, Reconciliation Australia is encouraging everyone to think differently and creatively about what they had planned. Taking events online and joining social/digital media conversations are suggested as two ways that individuals, businesses and organisations can celebrate National Reconciliation Week 2020.

What is the theme for National Reconciliation Week 2020?

This year’s the theme is #inthistogether

With the impacts of COVID-19 being felt around the country, National Reconciliation Week 2020 could not have chosen a more relevant and compassionate theme. The Watarrka Foundation certainly resonate with this theme, after a mammoth community effort was made to protect the Watarrka region from the impact of the pandemic. Never before has our community banded together in such a unified manner. Our team will be forever grateful to the amazing community of Watarrka for their generosity during this critical time.

"The Watarrka Foundation, in its mission to promote independence and resilience amongst the Aboriginal Community in the Watarrka region, encourage all Australians to engage in the National Reconciliation Week conversation. It is a time for us all to reflect on our shared histories and to continue building respectful relationships between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and other Australians.”

- Paul Jensen, Chairman Watarrka Foundation

As stated by the official Reconciliation committee, this year’s theme reminds us that whether in a crisis or in reconciliation, we are all #inthistogether.

Featured above: Official Reconciliation Poster for 2020

The Watarrka food program is still in place as we continue to band together to protect our community. To support the ‘Feed the Watarrka Community’ program, visit our Go Fund Me page at

For more information about National Reconciliation Week 2020, visit

To support the Foundation and our projects within the Northern Territory, make a donation at

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Posted on Wednesday, May 13, 2020 by Hannah Hellyer

Through nation-wide social distancing measures and the implementation of strict biosecurity areas in remote regions, Australia has successfully flattened the curve in its fight against Coronavirus. The Watarrka Foundation is pleased to report that the Watarrka region has had no confirmed cases of COVID-19. We believe that the Feed the Watarrka Community Program played a significant role in this pleasing result. The program removed the need for locals to travel for supplies, which significantly reduced the risk of locals unknowingly bringing the virus back from town.

Despite this positive outcome, our team feel it necessary to continue providing this service to our community for the foreseeable future. As restrictions are lifted, it is known that complacency in social distancing behaviour and hygiene practices can result in a spike in cases. As such, we will continue to adhere to government recommendations surrounding social distancing, hygiene practices and travel, as these are imperative to the good health of our community.

In our first article for May we provide an update about the food program, kindly supplied to us by Watarrka’s Primary Health Care Manager Chris Hakanson. We have also included information and resources about COVID-19 and insight into current happenings in the Northern Territory.

Feed the Watarrka Community Program Update

The ‘Feed the Watarrka Community Program’ has been running for 8 successful weeks now. The program, which supports approximately 60 adults and children from Wanmarra, Lilla and Ulpanyali, has assisted in keeping COVID-19 at bay in the community. The program will continue to operate for the coming months.

In last month’s article the Watarrka Foundation recognised the incredible contributions of local tour guide Justin Burrell. We would like to once again thank Justin for his commitment to the program as his role in the kitchen comes to an end. The operation of this program has now moved to King Canyon Resort where local chef Marco will take over.

Chris Hakanson kindly shared the following words from Kings Canyon Resort General Manager Michelle Ikin about how the program brought the community together:

"Thank you for your amazing efforts this year in planning and instigating the Feed the Watarrka Community program, along with Remote Tours and the Watarrka Foundation. The program has supplied nutritious home cooked meals to everyone in the local community. The example you have set for all of us to follow is an amazing tribute to your insight and tenacity in keeping this community strong and alive. We are privileged to be part of the continuing support for local communities and their wellbeing through offering access to our commercial kitchen, storage and freight. We will continue to maintain the availability of food which will sustain the local outstations."

The Foundation would like to thank Michelle, Marco and the team at Kings Canyon Resort for donating their kitchen facilities and people to help support this essential program in the community.

COVID-19 Information and Resources

As stated by the World Health Organisation, Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) is an infectious disease caused by a newly discovered coronavirus. Most people infected with the COVID-19 virus will experience mild to moderate respiratory illness and recover without requiring special treatment. Older people, and those with underlying medical problems like cardiovascular disease, diabetes, chronic respiratory disease, and cancer are more likely to develop serious illness. As covered in our recent article ‘The Importance of Protecting Our Community from COVID-19’, Indigenous communities are at greater risk than the general population due to a variety of health and lifestyle factors. 

For a general overview of COVID-19, we recommend this fact sheet produce by the Department of Health.

The video below, produced by the Aboriginal Medical Services Alliance Northern Territory, outlines safe hygiene practices and social distancing tips for remote Indigenous Communities in the Northern Territory. Access the video here.

Featured above: AMSANT Community Health Video 

Restrictions in the Northern Territory

As covered in our previous articles, the Northern Territory is currently implementing social distancing measures and have instated strict biosecurity zones to protect vulnerable Indigenous communities from the virus. At current, all existing non-essential permits have been suspended and no new non-essential travel permits will be granted until further notice. For people wishing to leave biosecurity zones, there are no restrictions, however anyone wishing to re-enter must quarantine for 14 days in an excluded area in the NT prior to re-entering. According to the Northern Territory Government, people cannot enter 'designated areas' except in the following circumstances:

1. You are able to complete the traveller health information on the designated area compliance form and:
2. You are an approved remote essential area worker (and hold an approved remote area workers (AREW) ID card) or
3. Have an exemption from an authorised person (and can provide evidence of this exemption at the checkpoint) or
4. You are a resident within the designated area, and can provide evidence to prove you have completed 14 days quarantine.

The Northern Territory (NT) Government is beginning to take incremental steps towards easing the restrictions put in place to combat coronavirus. However, many of these changes, if granted, may only be implemented in urban regions for now. A three-step roadmap has been put together, which is intended to guide the state back to what they phrase as ‘the new normal’. The roadmap is based on principles for personal responsibility, physical distancing, and hygiene. They state that the milestone dates featured in the map is indicative only and depends on no community transmission and people complying with the principles.

Other Resources for Indigenous Communities

  • For information about changes to restrictions, safety and testing, NT data, remote communities, remote work and travel and quarantine, visit here.
  • The ABC with the help of the Aboriginal Interpreter Service in the Northern Territory is producing an Indigenous language News Service in Warlpiri, Yolngu Matha and Kriol. Visit here.
  • For audio, video and printed resources relating to health messages in Aboriginal languages, we recommend visiting the Northern Territory Government website here.
  • The Aboriginal Medical Services Alliance Northern Territory (AMSANT) webpage is also an excellent resource. The site has collated resources and links to external sites to support member services, health professionals and community members relating to COVID-19, visit here.
  • We also recommend the National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (NACCHO) website as it is updated with the latest information as it becomes available. Visit here.

To support the ‘Feed the Watarrka Community’ program, visit our Go Fund Me page at

To support the Foundation and our projects within the Northern Territory, make a donation at

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Posted on Wednesday, April 29, 2020 by Hannah Hellyer

Implementing the ‘Feed the Watarrka Community Program’ has been our way of taking action to prevent COVID-19 from reaching the vulnerable communities of Watarrka. The program, which supports approximately 60 adults and children from the Wanmarra, Lilla and Ulpanyali communities, would not have been possible without the generosity and support of those in the community.

The Feed the Watarrka Community program is particularly grateful to local tour guide Justin Burrill. After being released from a canceled tour, when travel restrictions were imposed on the Northern Territory, Justin was quick to offer his hand of support and has since been working tirelessly in the Remote Tours Kitchen organising, preparing and delivering meals to our community.

Featured above: Justin delivering food to locals in the Watarrka region.

This week we spoke to Justin about his experience and gained insights into the importance of the Feed the Watarrka Community program.

Q – Introduce yourself. How did you come to live in the Watarrka region and what is your usual place of work outside of the Feed the Watarrka Community program?

G’day my name is Justin and I am 30 years young, originally from Melbourne. I have been an Aussie tour guide in Central Australia since 2015. I met Reg Ramsden in my early years out here and began working for his company Remote Educational Tours. This is how I came to live in the Watarrka Region. Remote tours is a unique and incredible touring company that offers school trips for Aussie school kids out to the Red Centre. These tours provide students with the opportunity to immerse themselves in the culture of Central Australia and aims to close the gap between Indigenous and Non-Indigenous Australians. I enjoy this tour so much that I return to Central Australia every year to work for Reg and Remote Tours.

Q – What is your role in the food program and why did you decide to get involved? 

I am in charge of providing Watarrka communities with food and supplies during the COVID-19 lock down. Lilla and Ulpa members are currently receiving a special package of a home cooked meal for lunch and dinner every day, as well as weekly delivery of breakfast supplies. Wanmarra members are currently receiving monthly deliveries of essential items. My role includes ordering all of the supplies from Alice, which are sent to us on road train each week. I cook and prepare all meals (x32) everyday and drive them to each house every afternoon. I am working out of the Remote Tours campsite kitchen at Lilla. 

My involvement started back on morning of March 16th. The day before I had been snorkeling at the Great Barrier reef and organised a pub crawl around Cairns for the tour I was running. I was on day 8 of a 21 day tour with 22 Americans. We were due to continue down the east coast and then off to New Zealand. On the morning of the 16th my office emailed to inform me that the tour had been canceled and that we would all to be sent home. With that news I called Reg to see what was happening with his tours and his tours were also being canceled. By March 18th I was back in Alice Springs and shortly after, I began preparing for this epic program. By March 22nd I left Alice and arrived in Lilla loaded with supplies and began cooking.

Featured above: Feed the Watarrka Community food prep

Q – What does the day-to-day look like for you at the moment?

I have been working Mon-Fri with weekends off. Each weekday members of Lilla and Ulpa receive individually labeled lunch and dinner meals. Each of these days is spent prepping, cooking and portioning these meals. I then deliver the prepared meals to many locations across Lilla and Ulpa by 3pm each afternoon. Each day I also drive to the KC Resort service station to collect the 10L of diesel, which is kindly donated to help fuel the generator at Lilla. After arriving
back from the delivery run, I clean up and start preparing for the next day. Thursday is my road train delivery day and on Fridays I do a special delivery of food designed to last members of the community for the entire weekend. This way they are fed until I arrive on Monday morning with the next delivery.

Q – How important is this program for protecting the community from COVID-19?

It is hard to appreciate how effective our program has been considering the lack of COVID-19 in the Northern Territory. Reg, Chris and Christine (the founders of this program) were incredibly quick to action the program in the early days of the virus outbreak in our country. I believe if COVID-19 reached the Northern Territory, then we would have been very well prepared. I think the entire Watarrka community would have no doubt survived. Reg, Chris and Christine should be acknowledged as superhero’s, considering they had such insight.

Q – How has the program been received by the local community?

Very well! When we delivered the first round of meals, the looks on locals’ faces were priceless. I think they have been very grateful for the program.

Q – What challenges have you and other contributors to the program faced whilst setting up and running this program?

The biggest challenge is the workload, but we are managing. The sense of community is very strong out here and I have had a lot of support from Reg, Chris and Christine.

Q – How would donations, collected through the Go Fund Me, assist the program in the coming weeks and months?

Donations would ensure that we can keep providing this important service to our community. Purchasing supplies in out here is also much more expensive due to our remote location so any donations help.

Featured above: Justin organising meals for delivery

To learn more about Justin’s incredible contributions to the set up and subsequent running of this program, read our recent article ‘Our Emergency Response to Preventing COVID-19 in the Watarrka Community’. In the coming weeks we will continue to keep you updated on the happenings of the Feed the Watarrka Community Program.

To support the ‘Feed the Watarrka Community’ program, visit our Go Fund Me page at

To support the Foundation and our projects within the Northern Territory, make a donation at

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Posted on Friday, April 17, 2020 by Watarrka Foundation

With the impacts of COVID-19 being felt across the country, the Watarrka Foundation has taken significant steps to stop the spread of the virus to our community. It is known that everyone is at risk of contracting the virus, however Indigenous communities are at greater risk due to a variety of health and lifestyle factors. These include higher rates of pre-existing health issues including diabetes and heart disease, limited access to health care services, a requirement to travel for supplies and a reliance on outreach services. Our mission to protect our community from the devastating impacts of COVID-19 reflects a nation-wide action plan, with approximately 150,000 First Nation Peoples living in remote communities around Australia.

Why are our communities so vulnerable?

As detailed above, there are a variety of factors that make communities like ours particularly vulnerable to the impacts of COVID-19.

Health & Age

COVID-19 attacks and destroys tissue in the lungs and also triggers an overreaction of the immune system, creating dangerous levels of inflammation. Individuals with underlying health conditions are more susceptible to complications as their bodies fight the virus. Diabetes, renal failure, heart disease and respiratory conditions are more prevalent in Indigenous communities than in the general population, therefore making the risk of fatalities higher. In addition to this, people aged 65 years or older are more susceptible to severe illness caused by the virus. This factor poses a significant threat to the elders in our community.


In addition to pre-existing health conditions, the close-knit and interconnected nature of Aboriginal communities increases the risk of contracting and spreading the virus. The contagion effect will be rapid and implementing social distancing and isolation may be challenging.


Access to health services in remote communities is innately more difficult than that of metro areas. The Watarrka region is fortunate to have highly trained heath care professionals and is well stocked with medical supplies. Traditionally, when people in remote areas get sick, they rely on visiting doctors, travel by car to larger towns or, if very ill, are flown out by services such as the Royal Flying Doctor Service. If the virus were to significantly affect our community, access to these services may be limited due to nation-wide demands. Further to this, access to vital saving equipment such as ventilators may also be limited.

The Importance of Food Security

Food security is critical in protecting our community from the impacts of this virus. As explored in last month’s article, the Watarrka Foundation is funding a program titled ‘Feed the Watarrka Community’ in an effort to reduce travel into Alice Springs. Our locals drive into town on a weekly basis to buy food and supplies, so by providing access to these supplies in Watarrka, we will reduce the risk of locals unknowingly bringing the virus back from town. The program is supporting approximately 60 adults and children from the Wanmarra, Lilla and Ulpanyali communities. Wanmarra is being supplied with bulk food supplies including flour, sugar and tea, whilst Lilla and Ulpanyali are being provided with three meals per day, prepared in the Remote Tours Camp kitchen.

Featured above: Watarrka locals receiving a food delivery

What actions are being taken by our Government?

The Federal Government has taken some steps towards preparing remote Indigenous communities for an outbreak. A national Indigenous advisory committee was established with the task of implementing an emergency response plan, co-chaired by National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (NACCHO). Remote community closures and designated biosecurity areas have been actioned, which will limit travel in and out of these areas, with only medical, health, police and education services allowed in. The Federal Government will be making $123 million available over two financial years for targeted measures to support Indigenous businesses and communities in increasing their responses to COVID-19.

The Minister for Indigenous Australians, the Hon Ken Wyatt AM, MP, states:

"All Australians are beginning to access a variety of supports and we are making sure that the unique issues facing Indigenous Australians are specifically addressed through discrete measures. We have already implemented plans to protect Indigenous health, limit the movement of people into designated areas, and made adjustments to the Community Development Program and other activities funded under the Indigenous Advancement Strategy (IAS)."

He goes on to state that the Government will be linking Indigenous businesses with additional support and taking steps to better apply the available Indigenous workforce to industries. Funding will also be provided to regional and remote communities while travel restrictions are in place so they are prepared and responsive to evolving issues that emerge during the crisis.

In the Northern Territory a public health campaign, produced by the Northern Land Council, is under way which includes short videos produced in dozens of Aboriginal languages exploring the theme of “stay on country, care for family”. You can view the campaign here

How can we work to create a safe environment for our community?

There are some simple steps we can all take to keep our community safe. Respecting travel restrictions, staying home where possible, adhering to hygiene guidelines and implementing social distancing will assist in stopping the spread of the virus. In the Watarrka region, our food program will continue to be implemented until the COVID-19 threat eases. In order to keep the program running, we will be relying on donations through our Go Fund Me campaign.


To support the ‘Feed the Watarrka Community’ program, visit our Go Fund Me page at

To support the Foundation and our projects within the Northern Territory, make a donation at

For other updates regarding COVID-19 and Indigenous affairs visit:

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Posted on Thursday, March 26, 2020 by Watarrka Foundation

As the threat of the pandemic spreads throughout Australia, the Northern Territory tourism industry has come to a standstill. Travel restrictions to and from remote communities have been imposed in the Northern Territory, South Australia and WA, and the Torres Strait Islands have ceased issuing new permits for visitors. While practising adequate hygiene and social distancing is important, isolating vulnerable communities is a necessary preventative measure to avoid the spread of COVID-19. Research suggests that up to 50 per cent of the Indigenous population are living with at least one chronic illness, but it’s the close-knit nature of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities that put them at particular risk.

These measures have been felt in Kings Canyon, our local community and Remote Tours. Tour companies that routinely visit Kings Canyon have canceled all tours, and the normally bustling Kings Canyon Resort, Kings Creek Station and the Watarrka National Park (Kings Canyon) have been closed. Until COVID-19 is no longer a threat to our local Indigenous communities, Remote Tours has also had to cancel all tours. Accessing food supplies has also become a challenge for our community.

Feed the Watarrka Community Program

In response to these circumstances, the Watarrka Primary Health Care Manager Chris Hakanson met with Christine Munro (Watarrka school teacher) and Reg Ramsden (Remote Tours) to discuss the implementation of a food program. Titled ‘Feed the Watarrka Community Program’, this program will be supported by the Watarrka Foundation and implemented until the COVID-19 threat eases. The program will support approximately 60 adults and children from the Wanmarra, Lilla and Ulpanyali communities. Wanmarra will be supplied with bulk food supplies including flour, sugar and tea, whilst Lilla and Ulpanyali will be provided with three meals per day, prepared in the Remote Tours Camp kitchen.

This program is a necessary measure as our locals drive into Alice Springs to buy food on a weekly basis. Access to food supplies will help to keep locals safe as it we will reduce the risk of locals unknowingly bringing the virus back from town.


"As the person responsible for the health of the local community, I have worried that if the Coronavirus infects any of our local mob it may prove fatal. Each community is a safe haven if the locals would just stay put, but how does one do this without having access to food?"

- Chris Hakanson, Primary Health Care Manager

Featured above: Portioned meals to be delivered to our communities.

On Monday 16th March a community meeting was held, and it was made unanimous that the communities would accept this help as a means to get through this crisis epidemic. Reg was quick to action the sourcing of food and supplies for the first week and organised a month’s worth of food to come on the next road train. Amidst the stress of closing his business (Remote Tours) and canceling tours for the next few months, Reg also bought up on freezers and sourced food from bulk food distributors and out of business tour companies to help in the set up the Remote Tours Camp as a food Kitchen. With the assistance of local tour guide Justin, who had been released from a canceled tour, the program materialised quickly. He joined Reg in helping organise the mammoth preparations for the program and arrived with a trailer packed with food, supplies and two extra freezers. The freezers, with the help of Chris, Christine, Marcus, Eric and Byron, were unloaded and installed at the Remote Tours kitchen (Lilla). 

The ‘Feed the Watarrka Community Program’ has been designed as a food delivery service, with meals prepared in the Remote Tours kitchen, packed and delivered to local communities. On Wednesday 25th March Justin worked tirelessly in preparing the first round of meals - Tuesdays dinner, Wednesdays breakfast and Wednesdays lunch. This is how each delivery will be structured throughout the program. After being packed into milk crates, the first round of meals were delivered to the communities of Lilla and Ulpanyali. The delivery team stated that the looks on locals faces were priceless, as the ladies and kids gathered around while Justin took them through their meals.

"Justin is a God send – the fact that he is willing to live and work in the community amongst the flies and heat is admirable and something to be celebrated. His contribution to this program has been immeasurable."

- Chris Hakanson, Primary Health Care Manager

Featured above: Food crates ready to be delivered.

Implementing initiatives, such as the “Feed the Watarrka Community Program”, is our  way of taking action to prevent the virus from affecting the most vulnerable in our community. There still remains the risk that many do not realise how dangerous this virus is for the elderly and those affected with chronic disease, so ongoing education will be required.

"If it were not for the Watarrka Foundation and the support of Reg, none of this would be happening. To the Watarrka community, I hope you are all safe until this is over and that this epidemic doesn’t take too many of our loved ones."

- Chris Hakanson, Primary Health Care Manager

The Department of Health is working hard to put plans into place to manage each community should an outbreak come to its area. The Federal Government has also established a national Indigenous advisory committee tasked with implementing an emergency response plan co-chaired by NACCHO. In the coming months we will continue to keep you updated on these measures and report back on the happenings of the “Feed the Watarrka Community Program”.

The Watarrka Foundation would like to thank Chris and the fantastic community support of this project.

To support the ‘Feed the Watarrka Community’ program, visit our Go Fund Me page at

To support the Foundation and our projects within the Northern Territory, make a donation at


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