Poppy finds healing and happiness in cultural role

May 18, 2022

Poppy Reece never knew what she wanted to be when she grew up – that is, until she became First Nations Program Team Leader with ARRCS.

“I’ve found my calling,” Poppy says. “This has just been my dream job. This is where I can make the most change. It doesn’t even feel like I’m working.”

Poppy, who started with ARRCS in 2020, plays an important role in supporting employment for First Nations people, upskilling them in their positions, and working with them and the wider organisation to overcome any barriers and manage any cultural responsibilities they may have.

Such responsibilities might include Sorry Business, a period of mourning and ceremony when someone passes away; or requirements under First Nations customary law.

Creating employment opportunities for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and building the capacity of the organisation while forming a dynamic workforce also benefits the people we serve.

“Having our staff, too, understand that our residents have their cultural beliefs – they might actually be the lore person of their community, so we might have to arrange for them to go back into the community to do the ceremony to teach the younger ones – there’s so much involved in it,” Poppy says.

Her knowledge of culturally appropriate care also extends to cooking up a storm of kangaroo tail, yams and damper for our clients – traditional foods that are something of a pick-me-up for First Nations people.

“I walk into the sites and the residents are always looking at me and going, ‘Are you cooking kangaroo tail today?’ I go ‘Yep’ and they put in their order. I love it, I feel like I’m making a difference.”

But it wasn’t always so. Poppy did not know she was First Nations until she was in her late 20s.

“So I haven’t grown up knowing my culture,” she says. “My mother was Stolen Generations, and my father’s Greek, so I was brought up in that culture. So I’m still learning, myself.”

In fact, Poppy learned to cook kangaroo tail from one of our Elders. “It was like my grandma showing me – we sat down around the fire. It was just a lovely day.”

Poppy’s people are east Arrernte, from the centre. On an outing with ARRCS’ Troopy Program, which offers mobile flexible respite services on Country, Poppy was able to meet Elders who knew her mother and told her the stories of when she was stolen, and her efforts to return.

“It’s like someone’s placed me in this position to find out more about it,” she says. “This position – it’s been very healing, actually.”

As her own life’s story unfolds with ARRCS, Poppy’s goal is to give our Elders the best possible life.

“One time a gentleman in palliative care came out to have some kangaroo tail and damper,” she says.

“He had sausages and salad. He had a massive feed that day. He had five cups of tea. He passed away that night with good tucker in his belly. That’s the thing I love about it – if I can give them the best end of life, that is my goal in life.

“Then also with staff – having all our different cultured staff to work together as one, to work for the same mission and get the best care for our Elders – that is my goal.”

ARRCS provides culturally appropriate care across the Northern Territory. Find out more in our Reconciliation Action Plan.

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