What is 'Community Development'? A personal reflection

I grew up in a town of about 150 people about 3 hours east from here, and I absolutely loved going to school. I lived on a farm, so going in to school everyday was exciting. I loved learning. I used to ask so many questions of my teachers. I was that kid bursting to answer every question, getting into every extension class and staying around during lunch to use the resources instead of playing outside. Back then, the town had a pretty even split population of Aboriginal and Non-Aboriginal people. We all grew up alongside each other. Some of my earliest memories are of learning Noongar slang - shouting ‘Balay!’  to put people off as they kicked the footy-  telling scary stories about the mamari (a kind of bad spirit) and learning how to do a corroboree. We were all kids and it was straightforward: we were friends, and we were all going through the same thing.

As an adult visiting my hometown, it doesn’t ring of the same innocence and joy as it did when I was younger, or at least as it does in my memory. All the comings and goings of people and families over the years as well as many other factors has left the community fractured and in many ways, lifeless. I see this shift happening in many communities - and not just rural or remote ones. It’s something that is happening on even the smallest of scales. Our school communities, our friendship groups even - they are different places as adults. They are filled with complexity and things to navigate, politics and emotions. For many people, both Aboriginal and Non-Aboriginal, this becomes our reality.

My interest in community development has largely sprung from that. It’s been peaked over time by different events and experiences for sure - but I believe it is something that has always been within me. I am tormented by how we define ourselves as Australians. I often find it too difficult to see the ‘fair go’, the common sense, the grounded nature that I once did and that I know is there somewhere. It dismays me to know that in many cases, the relationships I enjoyed so much with my Aboriginal counterparts as a kid would now be riddled with an inability to communicate across barriers that, over time, have been inflicted upon us, often without our realisation or acknowledgement.

As a young person, how we come to identify as Australians in the future is incredibly important to me. I do what I do because I believe that all Australians are deeply and negatively impacted by the fractured relationship between Aboriginal and Non-Aboriginal Australians, and that our freedom, happiness and success is bound up in that, unable to be fully realised.

When I was in Year 5, I sat in the front row of class between two Aboriginal boys. They didn’t like school, and weren’t the strongest at reading and writing. My teacher sat them near me so I could help them finish their work. Now, I have this real crippling sense of responsibility - it’s supposedly one of my greatest strengths. And every day I would help the two boys get their work done because I didn’t want to let anyone down - not the teacher, them, nor myself. It was a struggle. Sometimes just getting their names written at the top of their pages was a win. But I always sat patiently working with them, doing my work slowly so that we could all do it together. Over time, other kids in our row started doing the same until it got to the point where every day, not one of us would hand in our work until we had all finished. This story isn’t about being a ‘good samaritan’. To me, it encapsulates the very basis of reconciliation - of community development. Even back then as a 10 year old, I knew intrinsically that I wasn’t finished until my peers were finished. That I hadn’t learnt until they had learnt. That we all had to contribute our best before our class could be dismissed. We knew that our success was bound together by our shared use of the space and place we were in. And we knew all this without ever being told it - we knew it, because it is an unavoidable, inherent truth. 

Today I work alongside people from all walks of life and in many capacities, and every day I am reminded of the value we bring to each other’s lives. My vision is that every Australian comes to see this truth, so that our Australian identity may be healed and may truly flourish.

Why January 26 doesn't make sense to me

I grew up in a small town about three hours away from Perth, inland. It’s on Nyaki-Nyaki Noongar country, but I didn’t know that back when I was a kid.

I came to Perth for boarding school when I was 12 years old, and was so excited to have a bunch of new mates that I forgot to notice how lacking in diversity my school community was, or how little we talked or were educated about Australian history (the real history) or Australian identity.

As I’m writing this, I can’t even remember when I attended my first Australia Day celebration or party. It’s possible I stumbled across some fireworks at some point without realising what it was, but the first Australia Day I remember ‘celebrating’ was in 2012. I was 19. It was pretty low-key, a few drinks at a friend’s house by the pool, the sun scorching my skin, a brief grapple with the rules of a new drinking game, and pretending to know the song that hit Number 1 on the Triple J countdown. I had never realised before that this type of celebration was, for some people, what they perceived to be a tradition.

Of course, being 19, I wanted to be cool, have a good time and look cute in my bikinis at pool parties. So I went along to the Aussie Day party the following year. And the year after that, and the year after that. But it wasn’t until recently when I realised what a horrible date January 26 is for Indigenous peoples that I stopped and questioned what it is I’m really celebrating. What is Australian identity?

I run in what most people would probably consider to be a pretty diverse network of friends and acquaintances, and yet, I’d never seen many people (if any) of diverse cultural backgrounds at one of our Australia Day parties. Maybe if I went to particular events that targeted a more multicultural crowd I would have, but if this is the ‘tradition’, and this is what we do, then why isn’t everyone here with us? Why are there separate spaces for white Aussies and CALD Aussies when it comes to celebrating our nation? And why do banners that show Australian Muslims advocating for Australia Day create so much backlash that they require taking down? If Australia Day is really meant to be a ‘day for all of us’ like it’s avid defenders always assure me it is, then why aren’t we celebrating with everyone, together?

From what I’d seen, all people really do on Australia Day is get drunk. Sometimes they even get too drunk, and get violent (physically, verbally). How is this celebrating Australia any more than a Friday night in Northbridge is? And if this really is all that Aussie culture comes down to, then shouldn’t we want to change that, not celebrate it?

And if that’s not you - if you are just one of the parents who likes taking your kids down to have a picnic, watch the fireworks, and be grateful for how lucky we are to live in this beautiful country - I still find it hard to ignore the ease with which this could also be done on a date other than January 26. 

Since I didn’t grow up sitting at the foreshore with my parents, huddling behind them when the fireworks got too loud, I was literally introduced to the Australia Day tradition as a young adult, so I’ve had to figure out what the hell it’s all about. I don’t think this would be too much of a unique story; I think there’s a lot of people out there for whom the date itself holds no real long standing meaning. I can’t imagine the date holding some particular, patriotic significance for anyone alive today, really. 

In fact, what I think Australian’s are really starving for, is a way to know and to celebrate who we really are. Maybe that’s why people are so defensive about any change to Australia Day; they don’t want to lose grasp of one piece of few that comprise their Australian identity pie. That I can relate to, because I too dislike how little we sometimes perceive there is to base our culture on.

So how do we figure this out, this question of what it means to be Australian? I think it’s about focusing on what makes Australia so amazing rather than finding something to pit ourselves against as we have done in the past. It is amazing that our land hosts a 60 000 year old culture, the oldest surviving and thriving in the world. It is amazing that in such a short history, we have built cosmopolitan hubs that host some of the world’s best universities and hospitals. It is amazing that we have welcomed people from all over the world to make this place their home. It is amazing that the weather gods have blessed us with summers that would make quitting your job every December almost worthwhile. 

All of these things are worth celebrating, and there are so many other things we need to get to work on making better, too.

Imagine if we all decided, tomorrow, to change the date. Just in some ideal world, came to consensus that January 26th isn’t an important or positive date for all Australians and just simply moved our day of celebration. How incredibly powerful would that be, even for someone who might have originally been against change? To be part of a decision that we have all made together in this nation, in this current day, to celebrate Australia for the diverse place it is… now that would be truly something to celebrate.

This is the beginning

Kaya! You've just stumbled across the beginning of something new. Watch this space if you want to keep seeing pieces written by young people, about issues that we face, things we want to celebrate or things we want other people to know!

Some will be long, others short and concise. Some will have structure, others will meander and follow a train of thought. Some might resonate with you, others may not. All of them will shed a new perspective that will hopefully lead to some deeper conversation.


Get reading!

ICEA's First Newsletter (12/14/15)

It's ICEA's First Newsletter!
(Let's hope it's good)

Kaya and hello,

Fresh into the role I thought I'd take some time to reflect back and have a crack at a newsletter. I'll give a brief overview of what has been happening in ICEA land and then have a look around and see what else is going down around town. 

It's been a great few months for ICEA and we are semi surprised we actually made it through everything. We have pulled off the ICEA Classic, a handful of Marja Series, continued developing our new Yarn Program and have had a complete staff changeover (yew).

I'd also like to take the time to say how excited I am to take on this role and what an honour it is to continue the work before me. Being involved with ICEA for some time now I have seen it evolve to where it is now and also have a clear vision of where we want to get to. ICEA will continue to drive reconciliation and push for an Australia we can all be proud of by facilitating genuine experiences with Aboriginal culture via the Marja Series while also building the foundation of knowledge that we need to move forward in the Yarn Program.

ICEA has an open team structure and love adopting new people into our squad so take 3 minutes to hit us up and let us know you are keen. I've even included the volunteer interest form here to make your busy life that much easier.

Even more exciting times are coming in the new year and you may even need to update your ICEA bumper sticker come 2016 (whaaaaat?). Stay tuned til after the break to find out more...

Tom Joyner and the ICEA crew.


ICEA's freshest program, the Yarn Program, is all about creating conversations. It sees an Indigenous and non-Indigenous facilitator go into schools and have a chat with the students about Australia's shared history, Indigenous identity and reconciliation. It's about exploring where prejudices come from and why they still exist in Australia.

We believe that only once all Australians have a strong understanding of what has, and is happening in our own backyards will we be able to achieve reconciliation.

If you are interested in finding out more about this program or would like to have a chat about it please email yarn@iceafoundation.com.au for more information.

Remote Communities

On the most recent trip to the Dampier Peninsular we worked closely with the Bardi Jawi and Nyul Nyul Rangers and the local schools to encourage school attendance. We are lucky enough to receive support from Shell in making this program happen - they also support our Yarn Program so huge ups to them.

We were lucky enough to be there for the One Arm Point Remote Community School years 1 - 4 camp held at Kooljaman. The kids were kind enough to wake us up at 4:45am so we didn't miss out on any games and kept us entertained well into the night.

Working closely with the Bardi Jawi and Nyul Nyul Rangers we went into each of the schools and encouraged attendance through handing out incentives. We also managed to find time to go fishing, have waterfights, hunting and even eating a bit of KFG (Kimberley Fried Goolil.)

Smash the play button on this video and treat yourself to 2:30 of pure bliss.

Have a watch of this to gain an insight into what happens on these trips.

ICEA Classic

Well you all know the expression "6th time the best" and the 6th ICEA Classic was no exception to that rule. Despite having to push the bad boy back a day, the team still pulled off the best Classic yet. Kicking off with a Welcome to Country from Len Collard to all those that were excited enough to get themselves out of bed by 6am, things didn't slow down until the winners were awarded their prizes at sunset.

Highlights off the day included the Noongar adopt-a-word activity (mine was wandjoo = welcome), cultural walks by Len Collard, dudes and dudettes shredding it on the skatepark, shoe painting with TOMs, the Wavelength battle of the bands competition, the froyo eating competition which saw Len Collard retire home due to severe brainfreeze, groms getting barrels out at cove, spear throwing with the Bardi Jawi and Nyul Nyul Rangers, yoga with Tamara Yoga, more good food than you could poke a stick at and I'm going to stop there before I list everything else that went down. 

Although the absolute best thing was the overwhelming buckets of smiles being thrown around the place. 

ICEA board member and Noongar artist, Barbara Bynder, describes the Classic as 'unconscious reconciliation'. It's people coming together to celebrate everything that makes Australia special, the rich Indigenous culture, surfing, skating, live music, good food and the incredible coastline.

Have a squiz at some of the photos taken on the day here and here or watch thisvideo by Ari Gillespie from OK Media Group

Marja Series

If pictures speak a thousand words than videos must be somewhere in the millions. Here's a vid from the last event to save me typing out a million words

Gearing up for the next Marja Series, the Marja team have been expanding their horizons to engage with more youth and provide even more experiences with Aboriginal culture. It's a great oppurtinty to come down and see what ICEA's all about and hey, why don't you have some fun while you're at it.

There's always cultural activities, free feed and sweet tunes. Not a bad deal.

Want to volunteer?
Flick me a message at tom.joyner@iceafoundation.com.au

So what else is going on around town...

Reconcilation WA are looking for a new Project Officer

Kimberley Benjamin (who also happens to be the Yarn Coordinator - don't worry she's not leaving us), will be leaving Reconciliation WA at the end of January 2016, after 2 years as the inaugural RWA Program Officer. Applications for this position are now open and details can be found here 

Walyalup Aboriginal Cultural Centre

Walyalup Aboriginal Cultural Centre in Fremantle throw out some fantastic cultural experiences - have a look at the Birak Program to find out whats coming up.

Loved the newsletter and keen to get involved?

Join the ICEA Team

As always ICEA is looking for new faces to come aboard and make some great things happen. Whether your strengths are  graphic design, knitting, flipping snags, taking photos, sending emails, writing curriculums, climbing trees, telling jokes or just generally-good-time-provider we are keen to have you onboard. Treat yourself and head here to sign up for one-hell of a ride, and don't worry, unlike that rollercoaster at adventureworld we don't have height restrictions (you don't even need to keep your hands inside the moving vehicle (yolo))

2015 Marja Series Djeran


Last Sunday, the 24th of May, the sun was out and the froth was high – the perfect conditions for the second Marja Series of the year!

Heaps of young frothers made their way down to the North Cottesloe Surf Life Saving Club to celebrate Indigenous culture and get amongst a number of ripper activities.

The day offered over nine deadly stations – so no matter what your taste, there was something for you!

It was great to have Western Force stars Luke Burton and Oli Hoskins come down to have some fun. Some serious agility was on display in a beach rugby game that had everyone buzzing.

Aussie rules was also represented, with the lads from the Claremont Football Club conducting an AFL workshop on the beach. This is the second Marja Series that the Claremont Football Club has come down to and they were, yet again, a massive hit.

Participants had the opportunity to get involved in a number of cultural activities, which included tool making, Nyoongar language games, an Indigenous dance workshop and didgeridoo. Big ups to Leonard for teaching us about Aboriginal tool making, Billy for leading the fellas in didgeridoo and Karla Hart for getting us all dancing.

MC Trooth came down to give the frothers a taste of Hip-Hop culture. Trooth showed us the origins of rap music and gave a crash course in how to construct a deadly verse.

Some of the other activities that had everyone excited included surf lessons from Ash Pluggy and flag races for those who weren’t too keen to get salty.

"Was an epic day out, in and around the water. So stoked to be involved and share the good vibes!” – Ash Pluggy

Some mint works of art were produced under the Surfrider tent, as participants decorated reusable bags.

After the activities had finished up for the day there was some spaghetti bolognese for everyone to dig into!

"In my eyes, the second Marja Series was a huge success! The weather was perfect, the activities were awesome and everyone was frothing out all day! Definitely a testament to all the hard work from all degrees of the Marja Series team and all the amazing volunteers. Cannot wait for the next bigger and better event!” – Allanah Robinson-Cooke, Marja Series Volunteer Coordinator.

Make sure you like our Facebook to keep updated, as we have two more Marja Series events to look forward to this year.

Remote Communities Trip – July 2015

ICEA’s July remote communities trip to the Dampier Peninsula was a huge success. This trip was especially significant as it was the first time we would be (hopefully) taking kids who had particularly good attendance at school out on to country for a cultural excursion.

The crew, consisting of Curtis, Caz, Ashton and Lockie, landed in Broome on Monday the 20th of July and we piled everything and everyone into the Troopie and hit the road. Beagle Bay was our first stop and in the morning of the 21st at the schools assembly we presented 61 kids with prizes for 85% attendance or higher and of those 29 achieved 100% attendance! While in Beagle Bay we got the chance to hang out with the Nyul Nyul Rangers. It was such a pleasure to hear everything these legends do for their community and we are very excited for their future involvement with the incentives program!

While Caz was faking sick, Curto packed the car and we all drove up to Djarinjin/Lombadina. That night there was the basketball grand finals on in One Arm Point that was entertaining, exciting and enjoyed by all who attended! At the Djarinjin school the next day ICEA teamed up with the Bardi Jawi and Bardi Oorany (men and women ranger groups). The rangers, led by Kevin, updated the kids on the turtle tagging project they had reported on last time and Curtis and Caz announced and awarded the incentives! 25 kids achieved 85% or higher attendance for the second term of the academic year.

That afternoon was the highly anticipated cultural excursion for the students who had the highest attendance. With the permission slips signed and a convoy of troopies – ICEA, the Rangers and the Djardinjin and One Arm Point school kids headed onto the white sands of the Dardinjin beaches. The Rangers took us all out to see some historically and culturally significant locations. We had a look at footprints that had been set into stone 1000s of years before when it was soft, wet mangrove mud! Kids spent time finding and walking in the actual footsteps of their ancestors. The rangers then took us to ‘the kitchen’ – what seemed to be a sand hill covered in shells, proved to be an important site when the kids got to learn about the diet of their ancestors through of the cleaning of the shells that went on.  To finish the celebration of the kids achievements, an epic swim followed by a sunset feast on the beach had many kids frothing on life. Looking forward, we hope to bring about more cultural experiences for the hard working kids such as a Catch, Cook and Yarn.

From there we hitched a ride with Zac, one of the rangers from One Arm Point, and had our last night on the Dampier Peninsula. The next morning were lucky enough to have Jasirah by our side at the One Arm Point school assembly to hand out the incentives! Always good to have her around to help us pronounce the kids names correctly… Zac also presented a few of the kids and all up 38 kids were rewarded for their awesome efforts of 85% attendance for term 2!

The whole team including the rangers and the school staff made this trip the success it was. We all really appreciate the efforts everyone put in and are humbled by how welcoming the communities are towards us! We’re especially excited about the future of this program with the increased involvement from the Bardi Jawi, Bardi Oorany and Nyul Nyul rangers and hope the next cultural excursion is even more of a success! Thank you everyone for an all round frothy adventure, we can’t wait for next time.

Caroline ‘Caz’ House and Curtis ‘Curto’ Spencer 
ICEA Remote Community Coordinators