Work life balance in the outback for Alicia Carlyle
By Domonique Young
Relocating to a remote aboriginal community in the heart of the outback may be the last place you’d expect to find work life balance. But for Geelong girl Alicia Carlyle that’s exactly what happened when she took a job at Alekarenge (Ali Curung) in the Northern Territory.
The bubbly 26 year old kissed the cafes, clubs and netball courts of Melbourne goodbye to teach at Alekarenge School. She packed a bag, took a friend (who’s also a teacher) and hoped for the best.
“I had very low expectations. So much so, I was pleasantly surprised when I arrived here. I’d prepared myself to live in a shanty!
“I think if you prepare yourself for the worst, it’s always going to be better.”
Alekarenge is located 380km north of Alice Springs in dog dreaming country. It’s home to about 500 residents and four clan groups; Warlpirri, Warumungu, Alyawarra and Kaiditch, who are the traditional land owners.
The homes here are made of the same bricks and mortar as anywhere else, but there’s limited local facilities. Specifically, a health centre, bakery, general store and art gallery. But as Alicia points out, there are other gems.
“I have the Devils Marbles in my backyard. We’ll often go there on a Friday night. It’s amazing. My friends in Geelong don’t get to do that.”
It is experiences like these Alicia never had time for in the urban rat race of the city.
“I was teaching fulltime, coaching netball five nights a week and on the go all the time. Two nights a week I wouldn’t be home before one am.
“Now I’ve come to an environment where for the first time in my life I have time to myself. Although you naturally throw yourself into work, I also have time to relax.”
Outside of work, Alicia explores the local area, mixes with locals and simply unwinds. It’s in the classroom that the year four to six teacher continues to evolve and be challenged.
“Day one we had seven kids between us and our ability to keep them on the mat for more than two minutes was the hardest thing.
“At the end of last term we had 25 students and they each sat attentively for a long presentation. Just for a moment we sat back and thought, ‘wow, look how far we’ve come’.”
Alicia says it took an entire term before real progress was made.
“The whole first term was really about getting to know my kids, which you do at every school, but when you come to a remote Indigenous school you need to build the students’ trust. They just think you’re just going to come and go like everyone else. Building trust and relationships was very important. Then the teaching began.”
Alicia hopes to build on these relationships moving forward in her three year contract.
“I want to give my students stability and continuity and give them the same opportunity at education that everybody else has.
“The best way to describe it here is addictive. Anyone that’s visited understands. I’m developing my skills here and feel that I’d be wasted elsewhere.”
For more information on teaching in the NT visit www.teaching.nt.gov.au/remote.