We asked Danielle to share some special memories of her time in the Martu Lands.
Why did you first volunteer with ICV?
I saw an article in a women’s magazine about the volunteer work in Aboriginal communities done by Ian Thorpe, and immediately realised that was what I wanted to do. I jumped on the internet to look up opportunities and found the ICV website.
What inspired you to help with the school holiday programs in Martu Lands?
I had heard about the unacceptable conditions in some Aboriginal communities, and wanted to help out in some way. Outside of my neuropsychology studies, I work in childcare, so I was really keen to use these skills and have an adventure at the same time!
How do you think the school holiday programs have helped the Martu community?
The school holiday programs really gave the kids a chance to have fun. For two weeks, they could just be children and run around and have a good time.
The programs also helped develop the skills of local community workers, which could enable future school holiday programs to be run entirely by the community.
What are your best memories of the school holiday programs?
One day during my first week, to everyone’s surprise, several NASA 4WDs drove into the caravan park. They were in Nullagine preparing for a future Mars expedition. The team was studying stromatolites from 3.5 billion years ago to learn more about life on Mars at that time. Given the similarities between the environment of the Nullagine region and the surface of Mars, they were also testing out a spacesuit for the expedition.
They were really interested in our school holiday program, so we set up an excursion so the kids could watch the spacesuit experiment.
The next morning we rounded the kids up and drove off to the NASA site, 60 km away. They had a ball watching NASA try out the spacesuit, and the NASA team were fascinated by the kids, particularly their ability to walk around Spinifex barefoot.
That night NASA put on a presentation and half the town showed up! In a town where there is almost nothing for kids to do, other than ride bikes missing brakes and seats, the visit from NASA was really special. The kids and our program have now become part of the Mars expedition story.
How has your experience with the school holiday programs impacted your own life and outlook?
My experiences sparked an interest in Indigenous health.
As part of my Masters of Clinical Neuropsychology course, I am working on a research project to assess treatments for alcohol-induced cognitive impairments in the Northern Territory. A career as a neuropsychologist in Indigenous communities is now something I’d love to pursue.