From the moment I took my seat I knew this flight was different to all the previous ones I had flown on. For a start, the first class passengers were wearing high visibility vests, not suits, half of my fellow travellers wore embroidered polo shirts or sporting team regalia and a small minority were on crutches. There was no mistaking, I was on a regional flight heading to one of Australia’s remote regions, to be precise, Lockhart River, a coastal Aboriginal community situated on the eastern coast of Cape York Peninsula in Queensland, Australia.
This is also the northernmost town on the east coast of Australia and together with my wife Morgan, I am travelling there to start an arts based education program. The ‘Healthy Dogs, Healthy People’ project aims to raise awareness about the importance of animal care as a key element in achieving a healthy community. I have been employed to use photography as a way to communicate this message.
The town’s population of approximately 600 people consists of a mix of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders and a small number of non-Aboriginal people working primarily in the service and education sector. There are also about 1000 dogs in the community! There were some initial ‘eye-rolls’ when we introduced ourselves as artists promoting animal de-sexing, de-worming and de-bunking some myths around caring for dogs.
However, after our first week in the community we have established some trust with key people and are now part of a team of dog champions. We’ve sung some *deadly songs, and told dog stories with the kids and lined up models for a photo shoot.`
Added to this we have managed to not get bitten by or catch any diseases from the dogs and most importantly not run over any. When it’s 35 degrees, dogs (and puppies) hang out underneath cars!
We are now back in Brisbane for a week to plan the next course of action. Our original plan of a dog show and a book have now given away to a calendar and a mural, but we are still working on that killer rap and deadly photo!
* ‘deadly’ is an aboriginal expression for cool, excellent or top.