In a world becoming increasingly digitized a program designed to help remote Pilbara communities remain connected has taken out a prestigious regional award. The Mitirlpa (Staying at Home) program won the Dream Award at the 2023 Pilbara Community Services Excellence Awards on September 9. Launched in 2021, the program provides Kunawarritji, Parnngurr and Punmu communities with better digital infrastructure and staff who support the Martu people with online transactions. Jointly developed by Kanyirninpa Jukurrpa and the Puntukurnu Aboriginal Medical Service the program began during COVID-19 when many Martu people returned to their communities for safety reasons. KJ executive director Zan King said the program was designed to help the Martu access digital services without having to leave their communities. “What Martu wanted was a program where they could access things online to stop them having to travel all the way into town,” she said. “Obviously travelling into town is dangerous because of the distance, it’s expensive, and people often get trapped in town because they can’t get home. “They wanted to have a program where they could engage with the digital world because the disparity with remote communities and everywhere else is growing.” In the program, a non-Martu staff member lives in the community and they help train Martu people so they can assist others to make online transactions. Through the program, the Martu have better access to online banking, licensing, healthcare, and purchasing. Ms King said work was also being done in other areas to ensure the Martu people did not have to leave their community. “We are hopefully continuing to move along in time with the magistrate to stop people having to travel all the way into town for court appearances,” she said. “If it is just a short appearance they will be able to remain in their community where it is safe.” Ms King said she hoped to get long-term funding for the program so it could continue.