Groote Eylandt Diary – Part 2

Welcome is over, time to get down and work

AFL Queensland Development Coordinator Jeff Neumann is currently on secondment as the Regional Development Manager in the Northern Territory, on the remote island of Groote Eylandt.

“What a week it was my first week, as explained in part 1 of my diary I saw and witnessed things I never would have experienced in Queensland. This second week has just been as interesting but more so, daunting than anything else.

As mentioned in part 1 my first week I witness community spirit like none other but also devastated by the living conditions yet at the same time, seen the joy and happiness of both the indigenous and non-indigenous people here. Driving around everyone waves to you or if they walk pass give you a friendly smile, or nod or frowning wave but I have furthermore experienced the “not so good” parts of working in a remote island. A massive hurdle has been the language breakdown and with the work I am doing majority of the participants are indigenous people who speak ‘Anindilyakwa’ and English as their second language.

I have tried to speak and pronounce Anindilyakwa, a young student at Umbakumba “Bobby” tried to teach me different words and phrases but was all too much for me. I have learnt one phrase down to pat “Mema Mamawurra” which translated to English is “this day”. That might not be that impressive but it is a start and I have also picked up on certain words that can’t be published in this type of forum.

The island has given me plenty of good times and laughable moments, the way people announce they want you to talk. Basically the rule is that you aren’t allowed on anyone’s land unless you are invited in and announce you are there to talk you have to beep your horn twice and yell out the person’s name straight after. If no answer after two attempts they aren’t home and move on.

I have also seen the positive influence our great game has on the school students, in both Umbakumba and Angurugu school attendances are the worse in Australia. Angurugu especially, the school has over 400 enrolled but a good day is if 30 turn up. A-part of my secondment is to run Breakfast programs, not so much prepare breakfast because let’s be honest if I prepared breakfast they definitely wouldn’t come to school.

The incentive to come to school is to play footy, so I would drive around the Angurugu community giving the young boys or girls an incentive if they come to school we will play footy. Pulling into yards beeping the horn and yelling out “Come to school, play footy”, they language barrier is my biggest hurdle. Usually get told to go away or they are sleeping. Now it isn’t a bluff or anything, soon as they hear footy (on most occasions) they wander to school as quickly as possible. Footy is played in the front of the school among the monkey bars, slippery dip, swings and the goals are two big trees at the end of the playground. There is no out-of-bounds, it is play on and win at all costs.

At most I have had 14 boys split into two teams playing in an area that is more suitable to lane work handballing than a full contact game.

Overall it has been one big experience thus far; one that I would say has been life changing to say the least. Both professionally and personally in just my 14 days here I have definitely grown! Oh and I have definitely aced the manual driving now.

My third week is now upon, who knows what is ahead……..

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