Our Wanta Director, Henly, gives an insight into his daily life in Papunya and the importance of building relationships with community members.

Our team in Papunya recognise that an effective working relationship with the local people is particularly important for the success of the Wanta program there. One of the community relationship activities that we have is the cooking program that we run to provide meals for the kids of Papunya. On the Sunday before every school week, we cook a hearty meal such as rice and curry chicken or cupcakes for the kids. The meals are then distributed to the school kids in community. In the process of handing out the food, the kids are reminded to be ready for school the next day (Monday). Family members of students really appreciate the cooking program and the school reminder! After the food is given out to the kids, leftovers are normally given to other family members like parents, aunties, cousins, etc.

We also give away new and good quality second-hand clothing, footwear, beddings, etc. that are supplied by our contacts in town. For instance, last month, one of our contacts in town sent forty queen bed sheets to be given out to community members. There was a Sorry Business (where relatives of a deceased person gather and camp at the Sorry Camp on the fringe of community for weeks to share sorrow and undertake cultural practices) in community so I went and gave away most of the sheets to the people at the Sorry Camp. The winter cold can be freezing in the desert, so they really appreciated the new sheets.

Papunya school kids are always welcome to come after school to ask for ice blocks, fruits, or cold water. There is only one condition though – they must have attended school that day! Exceptions are those that have a genuine reason for missing school and those that returned to Papunya that day from Alice Springs or other communities.

Family members of school kids also come regularly for help regarding anything. We always do our best to help wherever we can. The idea that we are working and living with the Luritja people on their land is never lost on us and hence we always try to maintain a good working relationship with local people.

The good relationship with the local people helps in many ways but it is of significant importance early in the mornings when it is time to pick up kids for school. Kids are often sleeping in, so the Wanta RSAS team has to knock on the doors or toot the bus horn to get the kids to get up and get ready for school. Even though the process of getting kids ready for school disturbs the sleep of other family members in the household, so far, in two and a half years we have not had any issues with people being upset about being disturbed in their sleep. We attribute that to the excellent relationship that Wanta has with the people of Papunya.

Having worked and lived in Papunya for two and half years I know most of the local people by first name basis and that good relationship with the local people has helped a lot in Wanta’s work in Papunya. They consider us as part of the community. We will continue to improve and strengthen those relationships going forward.

Written by Henly Taka, Director Papunya RSAS.