What Northern Territory communities need is a sense of community. We call them communities but I wonder about that. If they were then the disconnect caused by boredom wouldnt be there. Boredom is the big killer and boredom happens when we are not constructively engaged. The destructive engagement with alcohol, drugs, petrol and associated abuses is an indication that a culture of constructive opportunity to act is missing in these places. Dont underestimate the energy and focus that is required to get hands on substances for abuse which leads me to think it has little to do with laziness. Strongly focussed projects work. The energy spent on the project of getting some petrol could become the project of fixing up a vehicle, or creating a childcare centre or writing a song in a band. A community is about constructive connections and needs and expectations and duties between people in the community. Having some expert people wandering around the countryside saying this and starting that and then disappearing never to be heard of again wont create stability or security or allay boredom in the long term. If I was living in one of these places I would be expecting Pat Anderson or Rex Wild to kick things off and introduce me to the new government teams Id be curious about these teams and pretty interested as well and would feel the beginning of a connection if I was introduced to them by someone who knew them and me as you do – I wouldnt feel connected to them at all if I wasnt introduced properly.
One thing that galvanises people together is work. Lots of times when people work together a great positive bond is formed. When strangers work their way out of a natural or unnatural disaster bonds develop between them. Project work that has strong beginning and end point can develop a sense of community and quite wonderfully that sense of community connects people after that project has finished. Project work has to do with the pragmatic stuff that constructively binds you as a group to a cause that has a beginning and an end point outside your own individual self.
In the communities I was fighting boredom. I get the impression that I was not alone in this feeling. Boredom is a big problem in these places. I found them incredibly boring. I relieved that boredom in all sorts of silly ways but the best way was when I was part of a purpose driven project for a few weeks.
Lots of the teachers and health workers I met lived in relative isolation in some cases it was deliberate and self-imposed and in others just imposed by the situation. I think that if workers go to communities they need to feel as if they belong and have a positive sense that they are there to achieve something beyond a wage or a years study leave. The people in the community also need to feel as if everyone who is there should be there. Project based work with a beginning and a specific end point that has proper funding creates direction and a proper connection between people who are strangers and it develops relationships between people who have not worked together before.
It is easy to be negative about decisive action but it might be dangerous to be desperately positive. Jumping on the Howard/Brough bandwagon smacks of this kind of understandable desperation. The extent to which all this attention to the problems in communities actually connects anyone to anything constructive will be the extent to which these problems are humanised and this means developing intimacy and familiarity.
Working together gives us that community a so thats what youre really like understanding, so does being together for a long time. You get to laugh at each others strengths and weaknesses, exercise tolerance and flexibility and imaginatively accommodate available resources to achieve a concrete outcome. Along the way community and interest and beating boredom will have jhappened too. While people wander in and out of these remote communities even with best personal intentions, nothing much will change regarding current values in health and education and law and order because no-one knows anyone, or knows why they are there. The strong stuff of community cant happen.
Funding fixed term contracts and work that is clearly project oriented that involves newcomers and old members of the community will and does create a focus that dispels boredom and can engage people in making life richer and safer. – Creates community. It works and is working now in part and in pockets of the NT just ask.