Restrictions on face-to-face contact due to COVID-19 has meant these last few months have been a bit of an adjustment, for both our team members and our communities.
We’ve taken a proactive approach to protect our communities, while implementing better delivery methods to continue important services and support. Our team members have been staying connected digitally and over the phone. It hasn’t been without its difficulties, which is why we’re proud of how our REDI.E team have risen to these challenges.
Our newly appointed Indigenous Language Coordinator is Marissa Gibbs and, after working in a number of different program areas in REDI.E, recently moved into this exciting new and interesting program in February.
Marissa, Indigenous Language Coordinator
"My role typically involves travelling to different regions and meeting community members face-to-face, which really helps develop rapport. Without being able to do that, it’s been tough. While things have been slow, we’ve been using this time to establish language hubs in the Murdi Paaki region in north-west Dubbo, so when we can travel again, we can hit the ground running."
The goal of the Language program is to establish a central online language centre, providing educational language and cultural resources. This will help our mob who have been disconnected from their cultural heritage to be able to login and access video recordings of elders, youth and other members of their culture.
The initiative is very much a community approach and will be made available for everyone.
"We’ve started with a lot of ground work, meeting people in the community and understanding their languages and needs. By working with local people (they’re the people who know their community the best!) we have helped to establish a framework for the program."
Marissa believes that collaborating with communities, not taking a top-down approach, is the correct way to create a place of cultural connectivity where social and emotional wellbeing will flourish.
"In each town, the whole community is invited to take part and share their ideas. Our goal at REDI.E is always to work together to strengthen our work in communities."
While working from home hasn’t been easy, it’s given REDI.E team members down time to reflect on bigger picture goals.
"We’ve been planning and brainstorming so that when we return, we can hit the ground running, collaborate and provide what’s needed. All of our work is community-driven. We don’t dictate – we work in partnership to provide what’s best for the community."
"My work is usually face-to-face, which is why working from home can make you feel a little unproductive. Without being able to travel, I’ve had to have many conversations over the phone and do a lot of work behind the scenes. I’ve concentrated on drafting the program, so we know where we’re going, so when stability returns, we can get things moving straight away."
Marissa is currently completing a Diploma in Community Services and is excited about the new challenges she will be facing in this role.
"I like a good challenge and I like to be busy. Community engagement is an amazing opportunity. Being Indigenous, it gives you more of a drive for your mob out West who have done it tough and have different experiences."
"I love taking a hands-on approach, meeting with communities and working together. Everything you do at REDI.E, you can see something good at the end of it. It’s very rewarding. REDI.E has been so supportive and understanding during this time. It’s good to know that working here, we’re well supported.
Another one of our team members isLillian Lucas who has been with REDI.E for two-and-a-half year. Lillian is currently a Stakeholder Relationships Officer working with Community Working Party Chairs in the 16 remote communities in the Murdi Paaki region.
Lillian, Stakeholder Relationships Officer
Her role and responsibilities are very broad. She works with different government agencies, not-for-profit organisations and communities, connecting them with services from training, to employment, to healthcare.
"I love connecting services to communities and providing services that benefit my Aboriginal people. I work with communities to identify their needs and what’s relevant to them, then communicate that with different agencies to find the best solution."
Not being able to meet with people face-to-face has been challenging, both for our team members and communities. Many have had to deal with feelings of uncertainty and loneliness.
"It’s been tough, but we’ve been staying connected over the phone and doing everything we can to assist in those areas. I’m used to having face-to-face conversations and yarns with the mob on the ground. It hasn’t been the same, and I know the people are missing us. Physical distancing has been a big change for us to overcome. For me, it’s been heart wrenching."
While employment has been reduced, Lillian shared there are still people getting jobs and many good things happening on the ground. She is particularly proud of the results REDI.E achieved with the Royal Fire Service (RFS) in Brewarrina.
"Eight men received training and became the first Indigenous state crew in the area. It was incredible to be a part of that. We still keep in touch with them to see how they’re doing and get them involved in community activities. It’s been a great highlight for REDI.E and the community, and it’s given other people in the area inspiration and motivation to do training themselves. The RFS has opened their doors to train anyone who expresses their interest."
Lillian is looking forward to returning to the communities and creating opportunities to continue to connect them with the services they need.
REDI.E team members, including Lillian, have used this time of reduced activity to identify areas they need training and development.
"Our current management team, my manager Peter and our CEO Tracey, are very supportive. They’ve been a blessing. As an Aboriginal community-controlled organisation, they’re continuing to invest in the community and needs of the people, as well as everyone within the organisation. I’m proud to see the community really flourishing. I can’t praise the management team enough, we’re all looking forward to a really bright future."
"I encourage anyone who’s passionate about working with remote communities at a grassroots level to join REDI.E. It teaches you so much. You identify the needs, educate yourself, and achieve great results. We try to help in any way we can. I’m looking forward to returning to face-to-face work and continuing to build meaningful connections."
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This initiative is funded/supported by the Australian Government.