Matthew West a Pintubi-Kukatja man, shares how his community Balgo in Western Australia is coping with COVID-19.
Currently the Chairperson of the Warlayirti Arts Centre, Mr. West expresses how the current effects of COVID-19 restrictions have made it difficult for community members who rely on the Art Centre.
“Yapa people like painting, but now they are missing out”
Art centers are integral to many remote aboriginal communities, they provide a safe space and employment opportunities. They also act as a hub for many different language groups to come together and share Tjukurrpa – Dreaming, for their younger generations.
Currently Warlayirti Arts Centre caters to more than 7 different language groups.
“Painting is really important for young people, to work on and pass it on,”
Mr. West explains how the travel restrictions in place have made it extremely difficult to attend to funerals. Balgo, like many other Aboriginal communities has been heavily impacted with loss. This has made it near impossible for families to finish off – complete their traditional mourning process, where families must attain a travel permit through Central Land Council if they have they have to travel.
Although it has been challenging for the community members with these restrictions in place, Mr. West has applauded the efforts of the community members and the local police in the lockdowns, making safety the number one priority. Currently the community of Balgo is going well and is COVID-19 free.
“Old people are the leaders, they know Tjukurrpa and everything, we need to care for them”