We're pleased to introduce you to Yuwaya Ngarra-li Project Officer Loretta Weatherall, who is based at the Dharriwaa Elders Group in Walgett.

Senior Research Fellow Peta MacGillivray sat down with Loretta on her last trip to Walgett to chat about Loretta's role, what's it's like to work in Walgett, and the importance of community-led work.

What is your role at Yuwaya Ngarra-li and the Dharriwaa Elders Group?

I'm a Project Officer for the Food and Water for Life project. My role is to design and deliver the Meal of the Month program, which involves promoting it as well. This is an initiative we do in partnership with Walgett Aboriginal Medical Service (WAMS). The WAMS dietician designs a low-cost and healthy recipe, which we develop into a community health promotion with the local Walgett IGA. This involves marketing the recipe and arranging for its promotion in store every month.

The way we promote the Meal of the Month is to run a prize draw, where if you do a taste test (which we cook in store), you get an entry into a raffle. We draw three prizes, which are food packs with all the ingredients to make the Meal of the Month. We also hold a competition which runs for the whole month, where you can enter to win a $50 voucher every time you prepare that month's meal.

In our team we also maintain the Dharriwaa Elders Group's (DEG) reverse osmosis water kiosk, the only source of safe drinking water in Walgett. 

The final bit of our Food and Water for Life team is the Gardeners' Network, where we organise and host meetings for everyone involved in Walgett's community and home gardens. We discuss what everyone's growing, and what's growing well. We share seeds and information about what to grow. The WAMS Community Garden crew bring seeds for everyone. We are also working with our colleague Alicia Dunning from the George Institute to develop a community-led food relief program.

What attracted you to working with Yuwaya Ngarra-li?

I want to make a difference in our community and for our community. I like research and I've worked as a community researcher. I want to be a voice and advocate for our community, and help make a difference on Closing the Gap. 

I can do all of that and more by working for the DEG as part of the Yuwaya Ngarra-li Partnership. I'm looking forward to doing more social and emotional wellbeing work with children and young people, that's my goal.

Why is community-led work important?

It is very important because community know what they want and need. That's the only way it will work. So that community can have a say.

What is it like working in Walgett?

It's wonderful to work for an Aboriginal organisation that cares about and understands the community. That's so rare but it's so important to get the outcomes that community want for their families and kids.

What are you hoping to achieve in your role?

I want to see a healthy community and healthy Walgett. For families to feel empowered to make healthy choices and for that to be possible from the supports we're providing and the change in the food system that we're helping to create.