In the wet you need a light plane to reach Darwin from many parts of Arnhem land. Even in the dry you have to watch for the tides and crocodiles.
For the staff of the Traditional Credit Union – the only business offering banking services to 11 Indigenous communities in this remote region of northern Australia – leaving Darwin head office to visit the branches can run to a week-long affair.
But the service they provide are vital. Credit union members can save their money, money itself a sometimes complicated concept in these traditional communities. And the credit union creates training and job possibilities.
As Sam Wees, a branch supervisor explains: “My brother had told me that the elders told him about a banking job at TCU; at first I didn’t want it because I was happy working for Power & Water and thought office work was a women’s job and men worked outdoors but that changed when he told me that if I didn’t take it they would close the branch and the community would have no bank, so I took the job to keep the bank in the community.”
This Aboriginal community did keep its bank. But it wasn’t the only winner. Wees went on to take the prize of the 2011 Northern Territory Training Awards for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Student of the Year.
It wasn’t easy. “I feel that this is a great achievement for me as my family and community life can provide a lot of distractions and reasons not to see my study through to the end,” says the supervisor. “My confidence has grown over the period of my traineeship and I’ve shown genuine commitment to share the knowledge that I have gained with my family and friends in the community. So no matter what your age, schooling level or where you are living, anything can be done if you really want it.”
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