Bawinanga Aboriginal Corporation (BAC) has recently been awarded the Northern Territory Community Group of the Year Award at the 2020 NT Community Achievement Awards.

The Maningrida-based organisation was celebrated for its Tucker Run service, which delivers fresh produce and essentials to 130 remote homelands across the 7,000 hectare Djelk Indigenous Protected Area (IPA) in West Arnhem Land.

“Winning the NT Community Group of the Year award is incredibly exciting and validates the approach BAC has adopted in giving our members the option to have sustainable lives on their own homelands,” said BAC CEO Ingrid Stonhill.

Stonhill said people who return to live traditionally on their homelands need support to do so.

“We offer a whole range of support for them; one of the priorities is that they get nutritious food every week,” she said.

“Whilst they do still hunt and gather from their land, they do still need the staples. We send out the Tucker Run every week which has a range of fresh fruit and vegetables, along with flour, sugar and things like that. We also do beds, mattresses, we can pre-order things as well.”

The service has been running for almost two decades but became even more important to community safety throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It is just ensuring that when we are going out there, we are doing wellness checks, seeing who is in community, who is on homelands, what children are there, if people have access to their medication,” said Stonhill.

“During COVID, we were accessing communities and because the medical centre was so busy, we were delivering medications to people.”

BAC is dedicated to providing Aboriginal people economic empowerment on Country.

Since 2018 they have developed bush food wholesale enterprise Maningrida Wild Foods, leased part of a commercial barramundi licence, run Barlmarrk Supermarket and opened Wild Foods Cafe, along with providing building and construction employment opportunities.

“We’ve tried really hard to look at what is being done and how we turn that into a business opportunity for community,” said Stonhill.

“That is where Wild Foods came from, harvesting Kakadu plums, bush potatoes and onions, and harvesting berries and then selling those to restaurants around Australia and now pharmaceutical companies.

“We work to facilitate the ranger program … if you ask any young ones what they want to do they all want to become a ranger!”

Working with remote communities comes with its own challenges, particularly misconceptions from mainstream Australia.

“Remote living is beyond most people’s comprehension because it is such a unique and extraordinary thing,” said Stonhill.

“I have learnt so much from people who choose to live remote and in traditional ways. Culture is incredibly strong here.”

In 2020, BAC launched a two-year strategic plan based upon the United Nation’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals, which Stonhill said provides a realistic framework in terms of what remote communities need.

“Living and working in a remote community means food security comes at a price and the challenges to deliver it are many,” she said.

“I don’t apologise for my single-minded focus on delivering the best outcomes to BAC members.”

By Rachael Knowles