When I first connected with Save The Children, I looked at a list of its work around the globe for my first foray as an ambassador – from war-ravaged African villages to refugee camps on the Syrian border.
But when I saw the organisation works with the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community in an area I love dearly, I knew Australia was where I would begin my journey.
Growing up in multicultural Broome, the remote Dampier Peninsula was a magical place to go fishing or catch a mud crab, and as a teen, I briefly worked in the area, ‘chipping shell’ on a pearl farm. As an adult, Kooljaman (Cape Leveque) at the northern tip became my favourite place in all Australia.
But while it was a place of respite for me, I realised it was something different for the people living there. I wanted to go back. I wanted to listen. I wanted to learn how I could help.
There is too much injustice, too many unhelpful stereotypes, too many horrifying health and education statistics, right here in my own backyard.
In Djarindjin, 170km north of where I grew up, Save the Children runs an early learning centre and a safe house for women in the community. The program is currently managed by non-Aboriginal people, but four Aboriginal women are in various stages of training, and the aim is for both centres to be run and owned by local people.
As one of the current managers puts it, "We want to work our way out of a job."
At the moment, only one in five children on the peninsula take part in early education activities, which means the majority are already behind when they start primary school. And, when you consider only one in 10 people in the region have completed high school, you begin to understand the importance of establishing a healthy relationship with education at an early age.