Name: Emma Kennedy
What is your dream?
My dream is to bring about sustainable improvements in companion animal welfare in remote Aboriginal communities in Australia. In my current role as Vet/Animal Control Manager for East Arnhem Regional Council (EARC), I have been able to develop and implement a regional Animal Management program that delivers sustainable animal health services, free of charge, to the remote Aboriginal communities of East Arnhem Land. The EARC AM Program has been recognised as the gold standard of Animal Management programs in Aboriginal communities in the NT, and it is my dream to extend its successes beyond East Arnhem Land, applying the same principals to Animal Management Programs in Aboriginal communities across Australia
Tell us a bit about you.
I’ve been an animal lover from an early age. This love of animals strengthened as I grew and led me to pursue a career in Vet Science. After graduating and completing my first four years in practice in rural Victoria, my husband, Leigh and I embarked on a 6- month trip around Australia in our old Kombi. Part of our travels led us to Galiwin’ku on Elcho Island, North East Arnhem Land where we lived and worked with Yolngu (Aboriginal people of Arnhem Land), becoming submerged in Yolngu culture. Here, I experienced overwhelming animal welfare concerns, and it was here that the seed was planted I was inspired to bring about some positive change. Leigh and I relocated to Yirrkala, where I was appointed the Vet/Animal Control Manager position, and the EARC Animal Management Program begun.
How have you demonstrated commitment?
The past six years of my life has been devoted to the development, delivery and management of the EARC Animal Management Program. Covering 35,000 square kilometres, providing surgical desexing, parasite control and basic animal health treatments, the program has directly impacted thousands of animals’ lives. Countless long days and nights of work, long distance travel by light plane to remote locations away from my family, working voluntary hours over many weekends and through maternity leave to provide otherwise unavailable veterinary care and ongoing program support. My commitment has been driven by an unwavering determination to improving the lives of companion animals here in Arnhem Land. On difficult days (of which there have been many) my mantra is ‘doing it for the doggies’….
What challenges do you face?
Challenges have been relentless, and at times, overwhelming. Remoteness, isolation of communities and funding constraints has resulted in a lack of appropriate animal health services in many remote communities. Traditionally, infrequent and often inappropriate veterinary services not only failed to address the health/welfare/overpopulation issues, but resulted in a fear of vets amongst community. Language barriers, limited literacy skills and lack of culturally appropriate resources has created huge barriers to community education, employment and training opportunities.
How will you use the money?
I would like to use the grant money to create an awareness campaign shared on various social media platforms. Our local Art Centre in Yirrkala ‘Buka-Larrngay Mulka’ employs local community members who specialise in creating and editing such video clips. Footage of our team at work and the issues the we have overcome would contribute to developing a meaningful and savvy campaign that would be effective in disrupting common thinking and challenge people to question whether this situation is acceptable.
How do you plan to give back?
With the mentoring support and financial backing provided through this scholarship, generating awareness and demonstrating sustainable solutions to a serious issue in remote parts of Australia is likely to impact significantly on the greater community. I would like to create a resource that can be used to support funding applications for animal management programs elsewhere and be used as a guide for project plans.