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