ARRCS Activities Officer makes wishes come true at Uluru

November 1, 2023
ARRCS Activities Officer Todd Rayner wears a blue ARRCS polo shirt with the red earth of the Nganampa Ngura Mutitjulu-nya Flexible Aged Care facility in the background.

In the remote Aboriginal community of Mutitjulu at the base of Uluru ARRCS Activities Officer Todd Rayner is making magic happen.

Todd, who works at our Nganampa Ngura Mutitjulu-nya Flexible Aged Care facility, has a knack for forming genuine partnerships that make a meaningful difference to the First Nations people we support.

In the four years he has been with ARRCS, Todd has managed to form a partnership with Voyages Indigenous Tourism Australia to rehome furniture from its Yulara property refurbishments to the Mutitjulu community.

He also partnered with local business Uluru Camel Tours to arrange camel rides for Traditional Owners living at our aged care facility, who had grown up around camels but never were allowed to ride.

Aboriginal Elders ride camels with Uluru Camel Tours.

And he arranged with Ayers Rock Scenic Flights to fly residents directly over Uluru. It’s a privilege reserved for Elders – not even pilots are allowed to fly over the sacred site alone.

“I’m quite good friends with a lot of business partners around here,” Todd says. “I teed it up with the camel farms; I teed it up with the plane rides for the guys to go out and look at Uluru – we got free flights for them. The pilots were more excited than anyone else, to get up close.”

An Aboriginal Elder wearing headphones looks out the window of an aeroplane on to a stunning view of Kata Tjuta.

He also has built a relationship with the Yulara school. “We correspond quite regularly with up-and-coming events they would like to invite the Elders to. We get the Elders involved and they talk to the young and upcoming Indigenous trainees – they get to ask the Elders questions.”

Committing to genuine partnerships is a strategic priority for ARRCS, with the goal to engage in collaborative and meaningful partnerships with Commonwealth, State and Territory governments, industry experts and other external community organisations to ensure ARRCS provides the best service possible for our communities.

But Todd is not quite sure where his knack for forming these partnerships comes from.

“People just ask and somehow it gets handed to me – and so I’m like OK, am I the fairy godfather? I just do it and it happens.”

It’s a far cry from his former role with a car dealership in Brisbane, and as a reservations officer for AVIS and Thrifty in Yulara.

“I was offered a job as a cleaner’s officer at the aged care facility. Within six months I was asked ‘do you want to do activities?’ Three and a half years later, I absolutely love it. I don’t ever want to leave.”

The activities Todd arranges are varied.

“We take them on outings – we go out on Country. We take them out to Walkatjara Art, where they go into the gallery and paint there, and tell the tourists the story of their paintings.”

They also go for lunch “up the road” – meaning a two-hour drive to the Curtin Springs cattle station for hamburgers and chips.

But Todd doesn’t limit his days to fulfilling wishes and dreaming up activities. “I’m out there doing activities, or caring, or being the chef for the day.”

And his cooking repertoire is growing: “We might chuck some rabbits on the fire. Occasionally outside family members will drop off bits of kangaroo and some perenties (goannas). We had an emu head dropped off for the residents to have a chew on. It’s very unpleasant, but they loved it.”

But it’s all for the Elders. “Absolutely it’s all for them. I have such a great rapport with all of my Elders at their home, and I treat them like family. They treat me like family. I never thought I’d be in aged care, never. It was never a career option I was looking at. But I love everything about it. There’s nothing I don’t like about my job.”

ARRCS provides care and support to people throughout the Northern Territory and beyond. If you’re interested in working in aged care or family support services in regional and remote locations, visit our Careers page.

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