The call of the country

Working in the Australian outback means Rhys Aconley Jones (JD 2014) never knows where his day will take him.

Aconley Jones lives in Yuendumu in the Northern Territory, where he works as a Mediation and Justice Coordinator at the Central Desert Regional Council. Yuendumu, located 290km north-west of Alice Springs along the red and dusty Tanami Track, is one of the largest Aboriginal communities in central Australia, home to roughly 1000 people.

In his role, Aconley Jones works with elders to reduce family violence and provides support to members of the community experiencing legal issues and criminal matters. But life in remote Australia moves to an irregular beat, and he often finds himself in unpredictable situations.

“I love that I have no idea what my days are going to look like,” he says.

“Just the other week I observed an Indigenous land rights negotiation – I was the only whitefella there. They pulled me in at the last minute because they wanted someone to record the proceedings.

“I also had to drive four hours out bush for a mediation meeting recently. It was important to meet at that spot because it had cultural significance for the parties in dispute. When I came into the office that morning I had no idea that I’d be driving out to a sacred site. My days are completely unpredictable.”

After graduating from MLS, Aconley Jones considered finding a job in Melbourne but couldn’t find the meaningful work he was looking for. Hoping to make a difference in people’s lives, and avoid an urban ‘nine-to-five’ role, he was drawn to remote Australia.

“In terms of opportunity for both meaningful work and career advancement, out here in the outback there’s nothing else quite like it,” he says.

“It’s a lucrative place to be if you’re looking for a meaningful career and want to be in an environment that is chaotic, where you’re learning a lot of skills and advancing quickly.”

But working in the outback is also tough. Change happens slowly, and requires hard-won trust and collaboration between the Indigenous and non-Indigenous members of the community.

“Sometimes there is a sense of hopelessness among non-Indigenous and Indigenous people, and to stay buoyant in that is the biggest challenge,” Aconley Jones says.

“Remote Australia is a place that tests your mettle. For people who want that challenge, it’s fantastic. Working alongside Indigenous people in a remote community is also an amazing experience that will teach you a lot about yourself.”

"The work is so rewarding because its very meaningful, the things you do out here feel like they have a lot of significance."

Rhy's advice to those 'who feel the pull' for something like this is to "Go for it!"

By Roselina Press