It was a proud day at Batchelor College recently when four Northern Territory Department of Housing officers wearing gold academic gowns walked into the main hall to receive their Certificate IV in Social Housing.
Cheered on by family and friends, the group were celebrating a significant achievement after years of dedicated study while working full-time.
The journey began in 2011 when Jeremiah Larrwanbuy Baker, Dannie Green, Michael Mills and Charmaine Ryan worked together in the Intense Tenancy Support Unit, relieving staff in the regions and handling sensitive cases.
Their supervisor encouraged them to enrol in a pilot course at Batchelor College near Darwin, as part of their work with Housing’s Remote Management Framework.
Returning to study is never easy and each group member had to make a major commitment to succeed. For Dannie, it meant applying for special dispensation to attend Batchelor College, which is designed for Indigenous students. For Jeremiah, it was a return to the classroom after a long break – when he left his Milingimbi school in 1990, it went to Year 8 only, and his later studies were confined to short courses.
“I didn’t know how to go about any course or training, or my role as a student,” Jeremiah said.
“I was one of those statistics; in later life I have grabbed every opportunity with both hands.”
Study was complicated as the team spent much of their time working in remote communities.
“Our business was out in remote areas and our office was in the tenants dwelling,” Jeremiah said.
In the field, it was difficult to access online material, which made e-learning problematic, explained Michael, who is now a senior training officer with Housing.
“Batchelor agreed to do over-the-phone and face-to-face and that worked better for some, while some stayed on the e-learning,” he said.
Many remote tenants have high and complex needs, and usually English is a second language, Michael said.
“It reinforced for me that my role is not just about understanding policies and procedures, it is also about having a strong ethical background and a willingness to communicate and engage with the tenant on a personal level,” he said.
Charmaine said the course really helped her with understanding clients with complex needs and the best ways to manage effectively.
“It’s really good course for social housing,” Jeremiah said.
He brought a traditional touch to the ceremony, wearing King Brown Snake face markings (for his maternal grandmother) and arranging for a traditional honeybee song (for his sister tribe) to be performed.
“Without the bee, no pollination – or education – would occur,” he said.