Breakfast and lunch is hand-delivered to clients at the Alpurrurulam aged care centre. (ABC News: Lucy Murray)
Every morning, just before seven o’clock, Nevenka Nemo and Cameron Long unlock the gate to the Alpurrurulam aged care centre and start preparing breakfast for the Indigenous community’s older residents.
Winter mornings are freezing in the desert town, on the Northern Territory-Queensland border, so porridge is on the menu.
It is made on the stove with milk and separated into containers, before being packed into a large insulated bag for delivery.
Ms Nemo hauls the bag, which is almost the same size as her, into the back on the minivan and climbs up into the drivers seat.
“Working is a good thing to do, getting up every morning and working,” she said.
Nevanka Nemo greets all the older residents on the morning round.
She often wakes them up as she knocks on the door with breakfast in hand, but they are happy to see her.
As she goes she picks up dirty laundry from clients, which she will wash and return later that day.
The aged care centre only operates on weekdays, so hampers are delivered to clients on a Friday to get residents through the weekend. (ABC News: Lucy Murray)
After the breakfast run, she makes herself an instant coffee and toast, ensures her six children are on their way to school, and helps her partner finish off the lunches.
It is Ms Nemo’s first job and she loves the routine.
“It has changed my life, because I had six children and I had to take time to grow all my kids up,” she said.
“Now they are grown up and I’m learning.”
Growing up in Mount Isa, Ms Nemo looked up to an aunty who was working.
“My aunty used to get up every day and go to work,” she said.
“She was doing bookkeeping and office working.
“Now I am showing that to my kids.”
Her family moved to the community, commonly known as Lake Nash, after they heard about the training opportunities.
Through the Barkly Regional Council she is working towards a Certificate III in Hospitality and Food Handling, as well as a Certificate II in Management.
“I can’t wait to get my first certificates,” Ms Nemo said.
“If we start getting our certificates we can get a job anywhere, wherever we go.
“If we want to move out from here, want to go to the city, we can get a job anywhere then.”
What’s on the menu?
For Cameron Long, cooking in the community is a balance between healthy and traditional meals.
Cameron Long cooking bacon and eggs for two older men who come in to the centre each morning. (ABC News: Lucy Murray)
The old cattlemen are always requesting steak and damper.
They tell stories about their droving days, spent under the stars with a fire and a hot loaf baking in the coals — and their tastes reflect that.
“They are old stockmen, they like corn beef, rib bones, steaks,” Mr Long said.
“The old driving foods.
“They just say it [healthy food] is not going to fill our guts up.”
Despite the challenges, Cameron Long enjoys sparring with the old fellas.
“It is good, because working with elders, you get more experience from the elders,” he said.
“Learning more about our culture, learning more about how life is and how they ended up living that long.”
For client George Anderson any food is welcome.
“It’s really great,” he said.
“I like bacon and eggs, steak and damper, curry and rice.”
The Alpurrurulam aged care centre has about 20 clients, mostly older residents, but also a few people with disabilities.