Bush cars painted and restored by Aboriginal children shown on return from Red Center NATS in Alice Springs
Products from an auto program for Indigenous youth will be on display this weekend as Alice Springs’ annual Red Center NATS car festival returns.
The Rusted Gems project saw students and community members from the Red Center participate in car restoration and decorating workshops to restore vintage vehicles to their former glory.
Summernats co-owner Andy Lopez said inspiration for the project came from Alice Spring’s automotive culture.
After noticing decorated cars in the area for several years in support of local sports teams, Mr. Lopez enlisted the support of NT Major Events’ cultural director, Paul Archie, to bring his idea to fruition.
“One of the things I noticed from a car perspective was all these cars that were going around that were painted or tagged with the names of football teams,” Mr. Lopez said.
“It was one of the things we saw in Alice Springs and we thought it was really cool and really unique.
“Paul told me that they represented communities often tied to a particular sport like an AFL team and about bush football and how cars are involved in these events etc.
“I said, we have to do something with this because we have to do a lot better in terms of local engagement, and that was the start of the Rusted Gems project.”
This year, more than 20 Indigenous students and community members took part in the project which encourages participants to develop automotive skills and build confidence while sharing an appreciation for cars.
Rusted Gems project manager Owen Webb said car enthusiasts from several communities have expressed interest in participating in the initiative’s second year.
“The idea is basically to get any car that looks or has the potential to be fixed, and then we get enthusiastic people from that community to do the work,” he said. .
In addition to the support of the teachers of
participating high school students, other individuals and organizations also helped bring the chosen vehicles back to life.
“Some volunteers from our local businesses and primary health organizations have volunteered their time from time to time to help the guys by working on the cars.”
The project acts as a vehicle to provide wellness services, with Rusted Gems partnering with the Redtails/Pinktails Right Tracks program to offer support services to those involved.
Right Tracks founder Rob Clarke said the project has created an opportunity to improve the lives of participants.
“The program engages people’s interests and then touches on all the things that a lot of people take for granted in their daily lives,” he said.
“We focus on health, school attendance, employment engagement, understanding the effects of drugs and alcohol on individuals, families and peers, and domestic violence education.
“So we attach all of these supporters to their passion to help.”
Mr. Clarke said the Rusted Gems Project and the Right Tracks program provide support to members of the Indigenous community, regardless of background.
“It’s not just for boys and there’s no age limit,” he said.
“And it’s not just about school attendance, it’s about school attendance and attendance at work, so it’s holistic.
“We also provide support for young people who may have even missed school altogether.”
Program participants from areas such as Papunya, Haasts Bluff, Mt Liebig, Yuendumu, Robinson River and Elliott will attend the Red Center NATS this week, which runs September 1-4.
Project Rusted Gems vehicles, which include a Holden Commodore, Valiant Station Wagon, 1988 TP Magna and two “Cuz Congress” cars, will be on display at Blatherskite Park.