National Group supports Cape York community

Mining-services group provides containers, sponsorship for initiatives in Mapoon.

Mapoon Aboriginal Community is located at Port Musgrave on the western Cape York, about 80 kilometres north of Weipa.

Mapoon (also known as Old Mapoon) has a population of about 420 people and sits on the traditional homelands of the Tjungundji people.

Dawn Braun, Leon Abdul Rahman and Pauline Smith work for the Mapoon Community Justice Group. Dawn is the coordinator, Leon is the Male Support Officer and Pauline is the Female Support Officer.

Since coming to Mapoon, Leon says he loves the land’s beauty, its hunting and fishing, and wild horses “There’s a really rich culture here.” This place is also mentioned in Midnight Oil’s song ‘Beds are Burning’.

As Justice Group Support Worker, Leon says Mapoon – like other places – has its challenges with problems such as alcohol, drugs and domestic violence.  With his colleagues in the Justice Group, they are working with the community to develop programs for the area.  

“We’ve been looking at ways to help connect our young people back to country,” says Dawn. Along with our On-Country program, which is taking the community people out on country camping, fishing and hunting, we’re planning a horse-therapy program that will not only teach horse-riding skills and animal care, but will be good for one’s social and emotional wellbeing. Over time, it could create jobs and develop tourism in Mapoon.”

Leon adds: “There’s lots of old fellas here who were ex-jackaroos who know how to break-in horses and can pass on their horse-riding skills. And there are plenty of wild horses. Horse-riding skills are important because horses can get to parts of the land that four-wheel-drives cannot access. The horse-riders can help the SES (State Emergency Service) and can help with fire-fighting and cultural burning.”

Planning the horse-therapy program led Leon and Dawn to National Group, via a contact at Rio Tinto’s bauxite mine in Weipa. National Group has machines at Rio’s East Weipa, Andoom and Amrun mines – and a workforce in the area. A National Group diesel fitter at Weipa, Steve McLachlan, is from the Yupungathi people, one of the traditional owners of Mapoon. Steve has some family at Mapoon.

Leon and Dawn wanted to secure shipping containers to store equipment. National Group donated a refurbished 20-foot container and secured another for Mapoon at a subsidised price. In August 2022, National Heavy Haulage transported the two containers from its Nebo workshop in North Queensland to Mapoon – an 18-hour trip.

NHH Transporting the 20-foot containers

“The community’s stoked with the containers,” says Leon. “They light up like a Christmas tree. Before we had the containers, we had to store the gear in our office, but there just wasn’t enough room. Now we have a space to put more equipment as we develop our programs. National Group has been really good support.”

The first container stores gardening and other equipment. Used by the Men’s Group in Mapoon, the container sits next to the community’s Yarning Circle (a place Indigenous people use to learn from the collective group, build respectful relationships and preserve and pass on cultural knowledge to other generations).

The second container will store equipment for the horse-therapy program, which Dawn hopes will start this year after planning approvals. “There’s a lot of interest in the idea and plenty of people here who want to learn to ride. We had a rodeo recently in Weipa that was great to watch. We’ll probably break in about six horses to start with and are planning to create a full-time position for the program.”

Both containers have National Group signage. “That’s important,” says Leon. “With the young people, we’re trying to promote the importance of getting a job and building a career. Having the National Group logo on the containers is a reminder that there are good jobs nearby in the mining industry.”

Expanded CSR focus

National Group has long supported regional communities through its corporate social responsibility (CSR) program. In a low-key way, National Group has sponsored initiatives in communities where its employees work and live.

This year, National Group has expanded its CSR work to include more health-related initiatives. Its sponsorship of an upcoming touch football competition at Mapoon, designed to raise awareness of domestic family violence, is an example.

National Group provided 75 jerseys for the Paanja Touch Football Tournament on September 24. Five teams have registered and that many again are expected to join on the day. The event is expected to bring out the community.

Mark Ward, a Field Officer/Officer in Charge in the Torres & Cape District/Far Northern Region for the Queensland Ambulance Service, is helping organise the event. The goal: to encourage conversations about domestic family violence in the community and how men can build respectful relationships.

“Leon and others in the Mapoon community are working hard at having a Men’s Group and setting up a Yarning Circle where males can talk about their problems,” says Mark. “This needs to be a place where topics such as family domestic violence can be aired without judgement or criticism, but instead, with support. This is already underway but we needed funds to complete this and other projects along similar lines. National Group was great with the containers and its support for the football jerseys.”

Every registered participant in the competition receives a jersey that promotes domestic-violence awareness. National Group’s logo adorns the jersey’s shoulders.

“These jerseys will be worn in Mapoon for years to come, which means we will continue to get the message out about domestic violence,” says Mark. “So far, the football tournament has had really good community support. We hope it might become an annual event.”

Mark has seen the benefits first-hand of sporting events that promote health issues. In 2012, he helped start the Diamonds in the Sky basketball program in Innisfail in Far North Queensland to raise awareness of youth suicide in the region. “The tournament still runs today,” says Mark. “If it has helped just one young person, it was worth it.”

Mark hopes the Paanja Touch Football Tournament will have a similar lasting effect. “We’ll also be providing first-aid courses that help people in the community develop new skills,” he says. “There’ll be sausage sizzles, raffles and other activities at the touch-footy day. Proceeds go back into the Mapoon community through the Men’s Group.”

Mark has come to Cape York for more than 30 years and is passionate about the area. His partner runs a nursing clinic in the area and they live about an hour from Mapoon. “It’s a great part of the world, but it has its share of problems. We have to keep working away to educate men that domestic violence is not acceptable and not part of the culture – and that there are places in Mapoon they can go to for help.”

Kain Ford, Head of Marketing and Corporate Social Responsibility at National Group, says the company is proud to support initiatives in Mapoon. “The work that Leon, Dawn, Mark and others are doing – and the passion they have to help the Mapoon community – is inspiring. National Group’s support is small in the scheme of things, but we want to make a difference in communities where we operate.”

Kain says National Group’s CSR program is expanding. “In the past, we’ve focused mostly on sporting and industry events. To support work in areas as important as domestic-violence awareness, and to help Indigenous communities in remote areas, takes National Group’s CSR program in new directions. We’re proud to be involved.”