Class of 2003

Looking for a change in 2004, Amanda decided to spend twelve months working in outback Australia. Fifteen years on, she’s still there!

Looking for a change in 2004, Amanda decided to spend twelve months working in outback Australia. Fifteen years on, she’s still there! Little did she know when she started as a nanny on a cattle station, supervising the children’s School of the Air lessons that she would go on to join the teaching profession and find herself investing long term in a remote indigenous community.

“It’s the kids that captured my heart”, Amanda said. “And there’s real need in our tiny, isolated communities. I can see it and I want to do my bit to give indigenous children the opportunities they need to learn, grow and have the chance to thrive in the wider context of Australia and the world.” 

That’s what motivated Amanda to get the kids at Ti Tree School involved in competitive sport, come what may. 

“The competitions a 2 1/2-hour drive away.” “No problem. We’ll get a bus and stay over when the events are further away.” 

“The kids don’t know what a netball is, much less the rules.” “No worries, we can talk about it on the bus and they can work it out on the run.”

“We don’t have any uniforms.” “Ok, let’s get some.” 

“You’ll have to give up your weekends and free time.” “Of course, but that’s what it’ll take.”

So, that’s Amanda. That’s how she lives the values of compassion, kindness, leadership and service she was brought up with and that were reinforced while she was at Luther College. And that’s how, despite all the logistical challenges, the lack of resources, sporting experience and know-how that her students get to benefit from all that competitive sport, travel and social engagement has to offer.

Amanda’s reward, she says, is seeing her students discover natural abilities and new passions, develop confidence and skills, and experience things for the first time. She’ll never forget, she says, watching some of her team members get their first ever glimpse of the ocean, or seeing them explore a shopping centre for the first time, including trying out the escalators. 

It’s only these sporting trips that make such experiences possible for the sports enthusiasts among the 90 Ti Tree School students – 97% of whom are indigenous. 

The school, located 200kms north of Alice Springs on the Stuart Highway, deserves the ‘very remote’ classification designated to it by the NT education department. It is attended by Anmatjere and Walpiri children who come in from their respective communities along with others from surrounding cattle stations. 

Amanda remains as grateful as ever for her incredibly supportive and encouraging teachers at Luther and the opportunities she had across Years 7-12 to challenge herself and broaden her skill set through involvement in athletics, sports carnivals, musicals and house drama. That, along with the theory and practice associated with Service Learning she realises, have contributed to her life choices; to where she is and what she’s doing now. 

Amanda’s big-hearted generosity is impressive. In November 2018, she was presented with the Chief Minister’s Volunteer of the Year Award, for her voluntary contribution to regional sports management as the official manager of AFL, softball and netball teams in the Barkly, and the manager of the 12 years and Under netball team in School Sport NT. It celebrated her exemplary work and contribution to communities in the Northern Territory. Congratulations, Amanda. 

As to how the Ti Tree School teams perform – that’s irrelevant as far as Amanda’s concerned. It really is, she said, about having kids participate and being part of teams – stepping up, having a go and learning from the experience. That said, recruiters for championships and state competition have been quick to spot some of her students and there have been those who have gone on to become the stars of NT football, softball and netball teams.

If readers were to take anything away from her story, Amanda would want it to be the encouragement to live in such a way that fully exploits and pays forward the opportunities that come our way in life. 

“If people also appreciated the value of learning about and responding to the needs of indigenous communities, that would be great. We have so much to learn from each other,” she said. 

“If that happened, maybe others would have their eyes opened, like the Year 11 students who visit here annually. They definitely go home less judgemental and more understanding with changed perspectives and attitudes having seen people their age so challenged by their circumstances but happy all the same.” And finally, Amanda extends this genuine invitation: “Come, enjoy and experience the Centre – the Territory. It’s an amazing place – an untouched wonder. Come join me. We love community builders out here!”

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