Tiwi College Project

80km off the Northern Territory coast lies a group of eleven islands which collectively comprise the Tiwis – aka “home” to the 2,500 or so strong community of Indigenous Australian people, the Tiwi, who have inhabited them for over 7,000 years. There’s a lot to like about the beautiful, remote Tiwis. The climate is tropical (the islands cover an area so large they boast their own weather pattern) and the eucalypt forests and high-density rainforests are second to none. The local art scene is booming (Tiwi art is exhibited internationally and held in major Australian collections) and the fishing, apparently, is spectacular.

Behind the idyllic picture of Island Life, though, is the reality that the Indigenous community here, although physically separated and culturally distinct, is susceptible to the same shocking social and mental health issues as the Indigenous community on the mainland. Namely, the Tiwis face significant issues with nutrition, hydration, youth suicide, endemic poverty and unemployment. Deplorable statistics include a suicide rate 4 times the national average; a 30% school attendance rate; and one person under the age of 25 being employed out of a population of 2,500. True story.

These statistics are from 2009, around the same time that Guy Reynolds visited the Islands’ Tiwi College (battered by that aforementioned 30% attendance rate). Guy, along with Matthew Hayden, hatched a small idea (initially designed to assist the college’s sports program) that has since developed into something quite substantial and truly special. Today, the fully-fledged Tiwi College Project is making a real difference through the development of infrastructure, which provides children with options for sustained healthy eating, fresh water, consistent mentoring and diverse career opportunities. Importantly, those abysmal statistics from 2009 have been replaced by something a little brighter: the suicide rate has dropped drastically and school attendance has increased to 80%. Visit the site for a fuller sense of the brilliant things the Project is achieving: https://tiwigarden.com/about-us/

I feel very lucky to say I’m travelling north in early August to volunteer with the Project for four days. I’m also heading north, though not quite so far, at the beginning of July to attempt the Gold Coast marathon. I’ve never ran that distance before, so it’s safe to say I’m scared and could definitely use the motivation of running for a good cause to push me over the finish line.

There are plenty of good causes out there, but if this one resonates with you, please jump on board and donate! Macquarie Giving will match every donation, so your generosity, in effect, will have double the positive impact.  

Finally – in my research on the Tiwis, I came across an interesting study on the mental health problems facing the Tiwi population. In it, the (psychologist) researchers spoke of “empowerment” and its capacity to address these pervasive issues. The authors noted that empowerment flows from identifying and supporting a community’s strengths. That point resonated with me, because I thought it really spoke to what the Tiwi Project has set out to do – and is achieving – within the Tiwi community. Personally, I think it’s brilliant. I hope that it resonates with you, too.

Many thanks in advance for your support!



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Josh Kirby 
Paddington NSW
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