AMRRIC’s Animal Management Worker program has been a three year pilot program, funded by the Aboriginals Benefit Account (ABA), aiming to implement sustainable, community based responses to companion animal management. The program contributes to improved animal, environmental and human health in remote communities in the Northern Territory. Beginning in 2011, over the three years of the program 48 Indigenous men and women from remote communities across an area spanning 541,049 square kilometres of the Northern Territory have been trained, mentored and employed by the program, each making valuable contributions to the success, as well as the lessons learnt during the pilot.
The program was developed to fill an obvious gap in terms of sustainable companion animal management in remote Indigenous communities, whilst also providing much-needed employment for local Indigenous people. Having worked in Indigenous communities across Australia facilitating veterinary services for many years, it was clear to AMRRIC that those programs that were most successful and sustainable involved the participation and assistance of local community members. Building on the success of other states’ animal management models, AMRRIC developed and coordinated the ABA-funded Animal Management Worker Program in partnership with the East Arnhem, Barkly and Roper Gulf Regional Councils, trialling the establishment of local Animal Management Worker positions within each local council structure.
An Animal Management Worker (AMW) is the primary liaison between the community, the veterinarian and regional council staff. The AMW role coordinates advice, information, stakeholder participation, community input and operational services relating to animal welfare and control, within their respective communities.
The knowledge and expertise the AMWs have gained from their training with AMRRIC continue to improve the health and welfare outcomes for the local animal populations; this in turn improves the health and wellbeing of the whole community. Through their involvement in education programs, messages about animal health, welfare and hygiene and how these affect the community have been widely distributed. Even for those AMWs who worked in the position and moved on, their training has given them the skills and confidence to further their careers and positively contribute to their local communities.
Animal Management Worker Ashely Hayes working with Dr Malcolm Mcgrath in Barkly Shire
In addition to AMRRIC's on-the-job training, each of the long-standing AMWs participated in accredited training courses through various institutes. In East Arnhem Regional Council, AMWs Tony Gunanganuwuy, Virginia Barratj and Julie Wulkurrngu all studied a Certificate II in Indigenous Environmental Health through Batchelor Institute of Indigenous Tertiary Education, and Phillipa Dhagapan participated in a Certificate II in Animal Studies externally through Charles Darwin University. In the Barkly, Scott Spurling and Dewayne Foster are completing a Certificate IV in Companion Animal Services externally through Open Colleges. Program Managers John Skuja and Bonny Cumming have both provided significant tutoring assistance to enable the AMWs to complete their courses successfully.
As part of the completion of the ABA AMW program, AMRRIC contracted Regina Hill Effective Consulting Pty Ltd to undertake an independent evaluation of the program. The results were delivered at AMRRIC’s 10th anniversary conference in Darwin in September 2014. The evaluation captures the invaluable lessons learnt over the past three years and demonstrates the importance and value of the employment of local Indigenous Animal Management Workers so their positions soon become commonplace through regional Councils across the NT.
For a complete review of the program, see the - Animal Managment Worker Program Evaluation
AMRRIC is committed to promoting capacity development and empowerment of local Indigenous communities, and despite the official completion of the AMW program, continues to provide mentoring and program coordination advice to both the AMWs and partner regional councils. Two of the three councils have thus far made a strong commitment to embedding the AMW role as a permanent position with the council structures. AMRRIC will continue to lobby for other regional councils to implement the recommendations of the program evaluation in establishing further community-driven direction of animal management programs.
The Animal Managment Worker program was funded with a $2.89m community enhancement grant from the Aboriginals Benefit Account (ABA).