Braving the elements to help Indigenous Australia

A group of people standing near cars.

The day-to-day work of the Department of Human Services doesn’t usually involve trekking off-road through Australia in a four-wheel drive.

For the Remote Servicing Teams in the Northern Territory, this is just one unique part of taking government services to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.

Woman stand near car
Remote Service Officer Nyssa Pastrikos

Nyssa Pastrikos is a Remote Service Officer based in Darwin. She’s been with the department for over a decade. As an Indigenous woman, she has a real passion for supporting Indigenous customers.

“Remote work is so important because it means we can help people face to face,” Nyssa said.

“When we travel, we’re always welcomed by the communities we visit, which sometimes can be hundreds of kilometres from the nearest town.

“You need to learn to be flexible and adapt when you’re working on the road.

“We certainly don’t have all the luxuries of an office – you might end up helping customers while sitting on a milk crate.”

Indigenous and non-Indigenous remote servicing staff work alongside each other, teamwork recognised in this year’s theme for National Reconciliation Week (NRW), celebrated from 27 May to 3 June.

The theme, ‘Grounded in Truth – Walk Together with Courage,’ promotes Australians of all backgrounds working together towards reconciliation.

A woman stand near car.
Remote Service Officer Tracey Prideaux.

Tracey Prideaux is another Darwin based Remote Service Officer, who also feels privileged to be able to connect some of Australia’s most vulnerable customers to essential services.

“It’s great to watch the communities I visit change and grow, and see how far they’ve come,” Tracey said.

“Once you get to know people they’re happy to share their stories. I love listening to the Elders in a community.

“I sometimes can’t believe I get to travel and see such beautiful parts of the country as part of my everyday job.

“There’ve been so many great experiences, like getting on one of those little charter flights in the wet season.

“I couldn’t be within four walls every day.”

The landscape during the Darwin RST’s drive to Minyerri

Nyssa also treasures the unique experiences she never would have had from behind a desk.

“You spend so much time with your team on trips they become like your second family,” Nyssa said.

“On one trip I had the opportunity to see a traditional smoking ceremony.

“You could really feel the magic and it was a very powerful thing to witness and be involved in.”

Remote Servicing Teams are located across Australia and travel to remote and Indigenous communities to provide Centrelink and Medicare support.

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