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Food bank established at Mamadawerre Homeland thanks to support from Red Earth students



A long-term project to establish a food bank at Mamadawerre has finally been given the go-ahead to make staple foods more easily accessible. A bi-weekly light aircraft food delivery will provide reliable sustenance for the whole community throughout the year, allowing Traditional Owners and their families to live on Country in a more sustainable way. This exciting project has been made possible by a partnership between Mamadawerre, Frank McKeown, Warddeken Land Management and Red Earth Organisation.  Almost $3,000 has been donated to the project through the Red Earth program, and we look forward to being involved in more initiatives like this in the future. 

Mamadawerre has been partnered with Red Earth since 2016, and quickly became a highlight in the reflections of the school students they have welcomed from across the country. Perched on top of a huge quartz and sandstone formation, the homeland has stunning 360-degree views of the surrounding rugged wilderness, with creeks and billabongs weaving their way through stands of trees and other native flora which serve as the pantry, hardware store, and pharmacy for the community.

The homeland inspires awe in visiting groups through its isolation and the magnitude of the challenges faced by the community each year with the seasonal weather. As the wet season arrives Mamadawerre is hemmed in by floodwaters on all sides for months at a time, hence the central architectural feature of the community – a dusty airstrip around which all of the homes have been constructed. The airstrip is an important lifeline throughout the year, allowing food and medicine to be delivered, emergency medical evacuations to Darwin hospital, as well as visits from family members and local government officials. 

Students always comment on how quickly they feel welcome and at home after the long, dusty bus journey to Mamadawerre. The whole 15-strong community gets involved in immersion programs, whether it’s sharing a yarn over some dinner, cooling off in the shade near the swimming hole, or sharing their culture through traditional art and craftsmanship. The ladies in Mamadawerre are masterful weavers and sell their works at nearby art centres as a source of income.

Visiting groups of girls are treated to intensive lessons in collecting and dying pandanus leaves, and weaving intricate designs from jewellery to wall hangings. Boys groups get their hands dirty fashioning trees into spears and yadakis (didgeridoos), both of which are much harder than they seem when a practised Traditional Owner first demonstrates it. Some students are lucky enough to take their handmade yadaki back home to sit on the mantlepiece, a talking point when family and friends visit and are no doubt regaled with stories from once-upon-a-time in Arnhem Land. 

For anyone who has been lucky enough to visit Mamadawerre or may be visiting in the future, rest assured that all is well in community and life continues as normal. Ranger Program Coordinator Torsten has been in touch to let us know that during the lockdown “everything is fine and relaxed. Hunting is a big part of the day to get some meat on the table, and everyone still has the opportunity to work and earn some money with the rangers. So far so good!”



May 12 2020  |  Posted by Red Earth

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