The good in closing remote communities?
What good is there in the West Australian government closing remote communities? Absolutely none!! Closing remote communities is wrong.
What I have come to believe, through my experiences, as a professional travel photographer is that culture is important and difference is ok. My journey through remote communities in outback Australia is no exception.
Photography in remote communities
I’ve got to admit, I have witnessed some wonderful things. I love photography, and I love documenting events and occasions. My lens and camera sensor are the tools that allow me to document and illustrate people’s life stories.
For the most part my camera is used to photograph couples getting married or families having portraits taken for their family history. But often I find myself telling the story of everyday people and their every day life.
Protesting the foreclosure
In light of this week’s protests against the foreclosure of remote communities, I have decided to share a series of experiences that have led me to personally believe that this is a terrible mistake.
I want to share more of my stories and experiences from my time living in remote communities. I was fortunate enough to document with my camera the lifestyles of these amazing people and this amazing culture that we are still privileged to see living here in Australia.
The photographs I was able to produce from this exploration were exhibited as a body of work at the Australian Professional Photography awards. The reception for the exhibited portfolio was overwhelming. The series of images and photographs were judged and awarded national runner-up photographic album of the year.
Living off the land
For 9 weeks we lived in one of these remote communities in Arnhem Land Northern Territory, which is very similar to the remote communities being closed in Western Australia . Ramingining is about 8 hours from Darwin.
This was a rich and memorable experience for our family, one that we will treasure for many years to come. For me personally it was exposure to the oldest living culture.
My family and I arrived in this remote community with many life experiences. We had previously travelled to countries all over the world and had spent 7 months exploring outback Australia, living in our camper trailer.
Nothing could prepare us for the once in a lifetime experience of living with Yolngu people in East Arnhem Land.
Although we came as complete strangers to this community we were warmly welcomed. The first thing we noticed is that things were different. Remote communities operate completely differently from the mainstream living conditions we had ever lived in or visited.
Was this a bad thing? NO, certainly not! And yes, there were things that we were not prepared for at all.
My personal curiosity really set in and I became determined to discover more about this land and the people that dwelt here. One of the first things we noticed is that our languages were different. However, rather than me making efforts to communicate in their language while in their land, the people graciously made efforts to speak to me in English.
From this point on I made an effort to try to learn some of the basics of their language, and I wanted to experience living the way they did. Of course, I know I wouldn’t be able to fully accomplish this during my short stay, but I wanted to make an authentic and genuine effort towards it.
The more effort I made, the more receptive the people became to me. They were already so happy, friendly and kind, but now they viewed this as an effort to educate me on their culture and their way of living.
Nothing wasted, Nothing taken for granted.
Within the first few days I gained an appreciation for their culture and lifestyle. Here, I discovered a community that were truly grateful for every breath of life they had. Nothing was taken for granted.
Just like my city suburban community, there were problems, some similar and some different. But what was completely different was the people of these remote communities live for life, they all contributed in some way to their family, people and community. They were resourceful and showed gratitude. Gratitude for their land, for their food and for life in general.
Another stolen generation
Why is this radical step being taken in this day and age and with all these years of disastrous failed policies as evidence? What good do we think we are doing for these people in the remote communities? What other problems are we going to open ourselves up for in the future when hindsight proves these policies to be a failure again?
After all, isn’t it owed to the people of these remote communities that they can abide in their original lands according to their tradition, as their forefathers have?
If we refuse to call it an invasion over 200 years ago, what do we call this now?
One thing is for sure, I know that the people making these decisions have never set foot in these remote communities personally. And if they have, their eyes were blindfolded so they have yet to experience the rich and rewarding experience that can await them. No one who has experienced this would ever dream of closing these communities down.