Madonna fell in love with Australia’s Red Centre and moved to Alice Springs in late 2012 to take up a role with Regional Anangu Services Aboriginal Corporation (RASAC). “My office is in Alice Springs. But the communities that we service are in the far northwest corner of South Australia. It’s just south of Uluru (Ayers Rock), a region that is called the APY Lands, or Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara Lands.”
RASAC is a not-for-profit corporation owned and governed by the Anangu people of the APY Lands, and it is also the largest employer of local workers. “My role is the workforce and programs development manager. I support the employment and training of our new workers,” Madonna says. “I am also involved in developing those programs, so they're culturally appropriate. I make sure that the programs are successful in meeting the goals that our board sets for us around the benefits for Anangu people on the lands.”
Providing culturally appropriate training in language
RASAC is very sensitive to the needs of their employees, which includes training that is as accessible as possible. “All our workers practice their Anangu culture and speak their local languages, predominantly Pitjantjatjara, and English is a second, third or fourth language,” Madonna says. “We translate and then record their training in language. The supervisors use these training resources to train our workers.”
RASAC also collaborates with TAFE SA. “Our TAFE training is translated in the Pitjantjatjara language, and some of our Anangu coordinators, who have already completed the program, help deliver this training and provide additional interpreter support in the classroom. It's a genuine workforce development model where Anangu workers are being upskilled and developed into work and leadership roles.”
The training programs facilitated by RASAC have been so successful that Madonna repeated her previous success in the Australian Training Awards from 2005: RASAC won the Small Employer category at the South Australia Awards as well as the Australian Training Awards in 2022. “We certainly seem to have a winning formula for workforce training and development,” she says.
Living in the red heart of Australia
Madonna has been very happy working with the RASAC team for just over ten years now, and she has no plans to leave Alice Springs anytime soon. “Many people who come here say, ‘the desert gets into your blood’. It's a pretty special place to live,” Madonna says.
Reflecting on the value of her years at JCU, Madonna acknowledges that the understanding of economics and labour markets that she acquired through her studies at JCU has shaped her approach to her work in her varied roles in government policy and workforce development. “The value of a good university education is not so much about the facts you learn,” she says, “but the thinking and analysis skills you develop. These are the tools you can apply throughout your career."
Finally, even though Madonna never officially became a teacher, the training programs that she has helped to develop over the last two decades have had a major impact on the lives of many people in the most remote regions of Australia.