Press coverage from the South Coast Register

A group of local community workers has been making a difference in an isolated Northern Territory community.

Several community and youth workers from the Shoalhaven have been working together under the auspices of non-profit organisation The Butterfly Playground to help strengthen a traditional Aboriginal community on the edge of the Tanami Desert about five hours’ drive north-west of Alice Springs.

Team member Mark Ettridge said the community of about 300 people faced a range of challenges related to isolation, land ownership issues and family conflicts.

“However in that size of community, a family conflict can get very big very quickly,” Mr Ettridge said.

Much of the group’s focus has been on setting up mediation processes, helping community members resolve problems without resorting to violence, according to Mr Ettridge.

That was being aided by the group including nationally recognised mediator David Holst from Sydney, and conflict resolution trainer Nicola Lambert, also from Sydney.

While there was plenty of expertise in the team of workers, communication was proving to be a major barrier, according to Mr Ettridge.

“We’re trying to implement a formal process in a community that works quite informally,” he said.

Graphics are being heavily used to help break down communication barriers, with the group’s contingent including graphic artist Steve Keast from Sydney and Shoalhaven artist Alex Frank.

Ms Frank has been instrumental to helping break down barriers within the community, working with young people to help them tell their stories through art.

At the same time other workers from the Shoalhaven including Liam O’Sullivan, Shannon Downes and Mr Ettridge have been sitting down and speaking with the community’s elders and discussing solutions.

“This is a great opportunity for us as community members to have this experience,” Mr Ettridge said.

While the community in the Northern Territory was far removed from the Shoalhaven’s towns and villages, he hoped lessons learnt as part of the project could be used to help improve the way services were delivered in local communities.

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