Ten top tips for the Territory
An excellent resource for you when working – or planning to work – in remote Indigenous communities in the NT is the Remote Health Atlas. Developed and managed by the NT Department of Health (NT DoH), the Remote Health Atlas offers online access to a wealth of current information on a wide range of topics. We encourage you to visit the Atlas regularly, especially prior to and during your placement.
What you pack depends on which community you will be visiting and at what time of year. What is consistent across all communities is to pack clothing and items that are practical, conservative and culturally appropriate. Sturdy and comfortable shoes and/or boots are also a must, as are items such as sunscreen, hats and insect repellent.
Prior to your first placement – and each subsequent placement – it is important that you consider what vaccinations may be required, especially as vaccinations can often require multiple injections over a period of time. Please see the recommendations for remote health staff prepared by the Centre of Disease Control (CDC) of the NT DoH.
Remember that you have been invited to the Indigenous community by the Health Centre as a professional healthcare worker and this is the prime focus for your presence. The community will not know you so take the opportunity to meet community members, introduce yourself, talk about where you are from and explain what you are doing here.
Asking for advice
There can be some teething problems as you adjust to this different environment. Persevere, be patient and ask for advice. If you remember your primary motivation and stay focussed on your vocation you will enjoy the experience and make an important contribution to improving health outcomes for community members.
Issues and Community Politics
Remote communities can be a stressful environment. As a part of the team supporting the permanent workforce, we strongly recommend that you avoid getting involved in local issues and community politics.
you need to be mindful of how you dress so as not to offend community members. Our best advice is that acceptable dress includes skirts and dresses, blouses, shirts and tops with sleeves, loose trousers and comfortable, enclosed shoes. Unacceptable dress styles include short skirts (above the knee), sleeveless tops, tight fitting shorts, tight fitting or very casual jeans and thongs or flip flops.
There have been occasions when visitors to a community have been disrespectful when photographing people and places in the community. As you would anywhere, always ask permission to take a photograph of someone. Please remember that the communities are open living places. Therefore, if you are taking photographs of, or around, houses and buildings this can equate to someone coming into your lounge room unannounced and snapping away with their cameras. Please keep this in mind and if unsure ask a colleague, manager, Aboriginal Health Worker (AHW) or Elder for advice.
An excellent resource is the Remote Area Health Corps’ (RAHC) Cultural Orientation Handbook. Download it and keep as a reference. Be sure to ask for advice on ‘no go’ areas when moving around the community. Men’s and Women’s business is not talked about with non-Indigenous people so try to be aware of these areas and happenings and take care to avoid them.
Occupational Health and Safety
- Be wary of dogs! Some communities have dog problems and you should always ask for advice on where it is safe to walk and whether you may need to carry precautionary stones and/or a stick.
- Be aware of potholes, snakes and spiders when walking around the community, especially at night, as communities can be poorly lit.
- Understand the climate of the community you are travelling to and pack accordingly.
- Cover your feet with proper footwear (avoid thongs and light sandals).
- Dress practically and conservatively and adhere to culturally appropriate dress code.
- General safety and security measures are the same as at your urban residence e.g. always lock the doors to your accommodation and if unsure about something, ask someone.
- Be discreet with your valuables and keep them securely stored.
- If you are leaving the community, always let someone know where you are going, with whom and when you plan to return.
Credit: Thanks to our sister company, Remote Area Health Corps (RAHC) for providing this information from their Placement Brief booklet.