Richard “Reg” Ramsden is the Founder and Director of the Watarrka Foundation. Reg started the Foundation in 2011 after experiencing first-hand the challenges faced by remote Aboriginal communities in the Northern Territory. Reg has lived and worked in central Australia for the past 30 years, and has always put a high importance on giving back to the local community and Traditional Owners in any way he could. 

A bit about Reg 

Reg grew up in Sydney and attended St Andrews Cathedral School in the city’s CBD. After graduating, Reg spent some time in the US before returning to Australia and moving to the Northern Territory to live and work with his Father. Reg’s Father worked as a tour guide, and introduced him to the beauty of central Australia as well as tourism within the area. 

A few years later, Reg began his own tour company called Remote Educational Tours. Drawing from his experience attending a private school based in Sydney, Reg understood the importance of allowing school children to tour remote Australia, experience country life and having the opportunity to give back to our Indigenous community. 

“Often private schools will spend a huge amount of money sending kids on international trips to complete community service in other countries, when we need help in our own backyard. I started Remote Tours to provide these schools with a platform and program in which they could tour our own country at a much lower cost, and create a substantial impact to the lives of many Aboriginal communities.”

Remote Tours involve students from schools in all major Australian cities and offer a cultural immersion program where the children can briefly experience life outside of the city, and complete community service activities to help these communities grow and develop. 

Why Reg started the Foundation

When Reg started Remote Tours, he was constantly exposed to various challenges faced by Aboriginal communities within the NT. Reg was aware that the tourism industry was based on visitors wanting to experience the unique landscape, environment and lifestyle in central Australia, and didn’t want to run his company without giving back to the communities that drew travellers there. 

"For me it’s really important to have a charitable arm to the business. I believe every tourism company should be giving back to the areas they tour.”

Reg was specifically drawn to the Lilla and Watarrka region as he noticed the school had been closed down, and there were almost 30 local children who were living in the community and not receiving any kind of education. The Traditional Owners residing in the area were also exposed to poor living standards that were affecting their health. Their homes were dilapidated, having been built 30 years prior with no maintenance since. The walls were unstable and exposed to pests like lice and scabies. 

Reg felt so strongly about making change, that he began using his own money and time to give back to the Watarrka community. Reg purchased litres of paint, and would spend his weekends painting the local houses and helping out with odd jobs around the community. Since then, the medical centre in the area has reported a huge increase in health standards of the locals, with less children developing conditions like asthma, eczema and rashes. 

Reg soon realised he was on his way to going broke with all the time and money he was putting back into the community. He also knew that if more people were aware of these challenges, they would be willing to donate small amounts to help improve the living conditions of the locals. With the help of Campbell Hudson, Director of Denton’s Law Firm Sydney, Reg started the Foundation (originally called the Lilla Foundation) in 2011.

Reg's role within the Foundation

Reg has played a vital part in not only re-opening the Watarrka school, but also continuing its expansion to support the education of Aboriginal children in the region. The recent and ongoing construction of the new school classroom has marked the success of a 2 year fundraising campaign, and will allow children at the Watarrka school to continue their education on country. 

Paul Jensen, Chairman of the Watarrka Foundation said: 

"Reg is the face of the Foundation and our man on the ground, without him we wouldn’t have such a strong connection with the Watarrka community. Reg is always consulting with the local communities and discussing what they want for their children, and is a driving force in making it happen.”

Reg's vision for the future

Now that construction for the second classroom is well underway, Reg is set on improving other parts of the community to keep the children, and adults on country for as long as possible. 

Reg would like to focus on continuing the annual Sports and Storytelling festival which provides children from various remote communities the opportunity to come together and play sport, socialise and learn. Reg will continue to put a focus on making learning and school a fun and social experience, to keep up the high school attendance record of the Aboriginal children within the region.


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