If you’re feeling the cold this winter, spare a thought for the families living in remote Aboriginal communities in Central Australia—where frost can gather on the orange sands and temperatures drop below freezing overnight.
Every year, a community-led body that supports 30-plus remote communities in Central Australia—Waltja —sets aside extra funds and supplies to prepare for the chilly weather to make sure the young, elderly and frail are protected from the cold and to keep them from getting sick.
But when a one-in-50 year flood hit Central Australia over summer—and an entire year’s rainfall was dumped out in just two and half weeks—Waltja helped hundreds of people to survive using goods that had been stored for the winter.
As a result, the organisation has been left without supplies they usually have on hand to support communities throughout the chilly months.
“Whole communities got cut off and people couldn’t travel in and out because the roads were no good, it wasn’t safe,” Joy Taylor from Waltja tells SBS.
“So many people come to Alice Springs to visit family, go shopping, or visit the hospital and they got stuck in town.
“Because of the floods, a lot of people lost everything, all their belongings including things they’d put aside for winter to keep warm.”
Elizabeth Marks is a senior leader in the remote community of Kintore—about a six-hour drive from Alice Springs—and says the heavy flooding meant that the road into town was closed for seven weeks.
“The rain took everything, from my house too,” she says. “There was nothing left. Mattresses, blankets, clothes, everything. All gone, all washed up.”
Waltja has ordered a shipping container filled with 3000 large wool-mix blankets to make sure children, families and the elderly stay warm this winter—but now they need help to cover the costs.
Keeping language and culture alive
Waltja Tjutangku Palyapayi is in the Luritja language and literally means “doing good work with families”.
The community-based organisation supports 30+ desert communities spread across 900,000 square kilometres—covering about 12 different languages. Guided by a board of strong Aboriginal women, they help people stay on their land and in culture, healthy and well.
How Waltja is helping to share the warmth
Waltja has worked out the cost of each blanket comes to about $25—that includes shipping expenses and transport costs to get the goods to remote communities via four wheel drive.
To help cover some of the costs, Waltja has launched a crowdfunding campaign called 'Share the Warmth' and needs to raise $25,000 by the end of July—so far they've raised just 10 per cent of their goal.
They’d love to raise the full $75,000 it’s costing to pay for the shipping container filled with blankets but are hoping the campaign will get the ball rolling.
“It’s important because there are people in out in remote communities," says Douglas Multa, a senior leader in Ikuntji community and long-time Waltja supporter.
"Waltja’s done a lot of good things, helping young people and old people. But it's the first time Waltja has done a big project like this,” he says.
Through projects like 'Share the Warmth', Waltja can continue to can support the families and the elderly in the communities they represent and know they stand a better chance of passing on traditions and culture to the generations that follow.
You can learn more about Waltja's 'Share the Warmth' campaign on their Pozible page.