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In this edition of ‘Meet the Staff’ we get to know our Yuendumu RSAS and Sports Academy Director, Tenille Rickard.

Tenille grew up in Korumburra and Inverloch in rural Victoria. She spent her childhood playing any sports she could – basketball, netball, AFL, cricket and wakeboarding just to name a few.

After high school, she completed a Bachelor of Physiotherapy at the University of Newcastle, undertaking her student placements in India. She worked in a hospital, a neurological rehab centre and a low-cost medical facility, working as part of a multidisciplinary health team in the slums and remote areas of Southern India.

Tenille says “it was there that I realised the importance and vitality of community development programs and designing initiatives which are specific to socio-economic needs”. As a result, she decided to complete a Post-Graduate Certificate in Primary Health Care in Developing Countries through Flinders University, followed by a Masters of International Community Development at Victoria University in Melbourne. Her Masters focused on the wellbeing benefits and importance of recreation and engagement programs for at-risk and vulnerable youth; in particular asylum seekers, refugees and Indigenous young people living in isolating environments.

Tenille wanted her career to align with her enthusiasm for youth and recreation. She says she has “a strong passion for the importance of recreation programs for vulnerable youth as a means for relationships, well-being, diversion and personal growth and development” so she started out working as a Sport Development Officer with NT Cricket; with a portfolio specialising in the engagement of Indigenous, cultural and linguistically diverse (CALD), females and people living with disabilities. This role allowed her to travel all across the ‘Top End’ region of the Northern Territory visiting many communities. It was then that she developed ‘Red Dust Cricket’, a remote cricket program designed specifically around the needs of Indigenous Communities. Tenille says she enjoyed “being able to work with young people to engage them in physical activity and healthy lifestyles as well as working with local communities to build capacity and empower them to run sustainable cricket programs in their own communities”.

Following her work with NT Cricket, she wanted to build on her studies and passion in International programs and working with young people, so she took on work as a Child and Youth Recreation Officer with ‘Save the Children’ in the Nauru Immigration Detention Centre. She worked with children, youth asylum seekers and refugees facilitating a range of recreation programs and drop in spaces inside the Detention Centre.

After this, she continued working with Save the Children, but as a youth worker in Brisbane; where she helped design and develop an outreach youth engagement program for at-risk newly arrived asylum seekers and refugees across the Brisbane region.

Tenille has also worked as a youth team leader in Wickham, in the Pilbara region of WA, working with Indigenous young people managing a drop-in centre and outreach engagement program for youth.

During her spare time, Tenille enjoys alternate wellbeing practices, completing her Reiki certification in India and doing meditation retreats and practicing it throughout Asia. She once did a Vipassana (Silent) Retreat in a buddhist monastery in Thailand for ten days and stayed in some ashrams in India doing Ayurvedic medicine.

Another of Tenille’s passions is traveling – she has spent over six years traveling and living overseas. She has lived and volunteered in Timor Leste, India, Albania and Bali; and has traveled throughout Asia, South America, Europe and the Middle East. Whilst in Bali, she started a hammock business and kimono clothing label with a friend, sourcing local materials and developing a range of lines. But it was when she had arrived in Lebanon at the beginning of a one year solo backpacking trip around the Middle East and Africa when Covid-19 hit and she was forced to return back to Australia. Tenille says “when I realised that travel would be off the cards for the near future I decided to apply for a role with Wanta – which lead me to my current position”.

Tenille is currently the General Manager for Wanta in Yuendumu, managing the RSAS and Sports Academy. The Yuendumu team has twelve Indigeneous staff and they run a range of engagement programs for youth; ranging from sport, art, life skills, driver education to cultural and language programs. A major part of Tenille’s role is to build the capacity and empower Indigenous staff members to enable programs to be run by local community members and mentors in a language and culturally appropriate way. This will enable sustainable future employment opportunities for the youth in Yuendumu.

Tenille said “it has been an amazing experience to be able to do the work we do with Wanta. The Wanta team in Yuendumu has been extremely welcoming and have taught me so much about Walpiri culture and language. It is a privilege to be able to work alongside the staff, traveling throughout their country and participating in cultural programs such as hunting for traditional bush foods, cooking traditional foods out bush and learning about the dream time stories”.

What a fascinating life Tenille has led so far! We are so lucky to have her at Wanta and can’t wait to see what she has planned. Thanks for sharing your story with us, Tenille. Keep up the amazing work.