Bobbi Sawyer’s work with Aboriginal Children and families in the APY Lands in the far North West corner of South Australia has won her an Order of Australia Medal.
Bobbi is based in the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara Lands, at Amata, and provides mental health services for Anangu children, adolescents and their families.
She works as part of the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS), which is a part of the Women’s and Children’s Health Network and has been visiting the remote region since 2006.
The long-term commitment to the Anangu has shown in the progress she has made.
Three years ago she moved to live on the Lands and is one of two CAMHS workers who live in the Communities as part of a broader visiting team who come into the lands regularly.
CAMHS in the APY Lands works with children, families and the communities to support better social and emotional wellbeing.
“We try to help support kids at school and be as healthy and successful as they can be,” Ms Sawyer said.
“The work is done through relationships; if you don’t have relationships with the families and elders you can’t get much done. We have been really lucky to have some really brave elders support us to talk about grief and trauma, it is always really hard for people to trust white agencies given the welfare history of Government Policy in Australia,” she said.
“The communities have been really brave to let us in and share their stories, often about really hard things. The Anangu want to make things better for their kids. The children are really beautiful and they just want what every kid wants, to have fun and be loved. They’re really resilient little kids.”
When asked about receiving the award, she admitted it was slightly awkward to receive it on Australia Day, given what it means to the Indigenous community in this Country, but it was still an honour.
“It feels a bit overwhelming to receive it. It’s obviously a real honour. I always feel really privileged to do the work I do, it’s a real honour to be let in. The Anangu have a lot to teach us about working collectively and valuing family and culture,” she said.
“It’s hard to be away from family and friends and I really miss the kids in my family, but the longer you’re there, the more you connect and gain trust.”