Jessica Mullins is the Department of Human Services Remote Service Centre Manager at Bathurst Island, Wurrumiyanga, also known as Nguiu – 80km to the north of Darwin.
“There’s only a population of about three and a half thousand here so you pretty much know everyone,” Jessica says.
If you ask her about crocodiles, Jessica just laughs. Being in a remote region means a lot more than that. For Jessica it’s all about the people.
“They’re really welcoming,” she said. “My husband, who is from Sydney originally, has had an amazing experience.”
Jessica encourages everyone to visit the remote parts of Australia at least once. Darwin may seem remote to the uninitiated but for Jessica it is Bathurst Island, Wadeye, Galiwinku and Maningrida.
“I think that remote is excellent,” she said. “I encourage anyone to go bush. I live five minutes away from the beach, an hour away from a secluded beach.
“It takes me two minutes to get to work. I think that’s one of the biggest things for me going back home, there’s no hustle and bustle.”
Jessica believes it is very important to live and work in the community she calls home.
“Working at the service centre, you have a special kind of relationship with people,” Jessica said. “You become like their best friend, their counsellor. And I get a real kick out of helping my own people.”
Knowing the local language is essential to offering the best services for locals.
“One of the biggest challenges of being remote is the language barrier,” Jessica said. “So the fact I can speak Tiwi and use it to explain to people any new changes to payments and services, or what they need to do, makes all the difference.”
Many people on Bathurst Island do not speak any English, however they can communicate very well in Tiwi.
“It just makes it better that we can speak Tiwi back to them,” Jessica said. “I think it is comforting they know what I am saying to them. It makes it a more enjoyable experience for them.”
Jessica had only been in the department a short while before she became manager, a goal that normally takes many years to achieve. She is an inspirational example of how quickly you can progress if you are driven to succeed in life.
Perhaps part of the secret to her success is her passion for the work she does and community she serves. Jessica believes she has become a voice for the community she serves.
“I love my job, I really do,” she said. “Not many people can say that. I think I’ve become that person they can go to with any issue.”
When the department gave her the opportunity to do the Remote Managers’ Development Programme in Darwin, Jessica eagerly accepted and found it had a profound effect on her skills.
One example of her success is how she and her staff have taught people to use self service.
“I am actually proud to say that my office has had the best self-service use among all Remote Service Centres,” Jessica said.
“They can do everything, pretty much, on the self-service terminals.”
The career opportunities and skills that the department gave Jessica mean that she can stay on Bathurst Island. She is a positive example of what you can achieve while living in a remote community. Through training with the department, Jessica developed excellent communication skills.
“I’ve become a people person,” she said. “I wasn’t really the people person type. I was very introverted, very quiet, the home body. I’ve become a very good communicator.”
Jessica believes that having the department’s presence on the island is crucial.
“I think the island would be lost without this service centre,” she said. “ People would find it very difficult to get help from anyone else. A lot of services are shutting down now or are fly in, fly out.
“But we’re consistently here, someone’s always ready to help. And I am really lucky that my staff have got that ‘I can help you’ attitude.”