Gurrumul Yunupingu Foundation has been working in partnership with Sunrise Health Service Aboriginal Corporation in the Katherine region with young women from remote communities. The Program, funded by the Westpac Foundation and the Lord Mayor’s Charitable Foundation (Eldon & Anne Foote – Donor Advised Fund) organised Social and Emotional Wellbeing Camps and then brought everyone together for a final Community Women’s Gathering. The purpose was to engage Indigenous girls and young women in a safe culturally appropriate place to build confidence, skills and knowledge which strengthens their cultural connections and commitment to a healthy and safe lifestyle.
Katherine is 320 kms south of Darwin and the main service area for many remote communities. The camps were held in the remote communities of Ngukurr (330klms from Katherine), Minyerri (270klms) and Bulman (315 klms) with some young women from Jilkminggan and Mataranka involved as well. Participants in all activities included young and older women to ensure cultural safety and respect.
There were information sessions on Sexual Health and Safe Behaviours and a strong focus on General Health, Nutrition and Fitness. Specific information was provided on Diabetes, other Chronic Diseases and the importance of regular check-ups. At the camps everyone enjoyed hunting and fishing, learning about the health benefits of bush food, and then cooking and eating together.
The final ‘Women’s Gathering’ in Katherine was held at the Charles Darwin University Rural Campus. There were workshops around self-awareness, confidence and assertive behaviour, dealing with peer pressure and risks of social media with professional Indigenous musician and theatre worker Ally Mills and young professional musician/songwriter from Katherine Serina Pech. In Play Back Theatre sessions the young women further explored issues by playing out real situations and alternative ways of approaching them.
The women were involved in setting goals for themselves during the program and each one made a personal goal to be achievable in the short or longer term. Examples of goals were the plan to study a particular course, to aim for a job – some had decided to become Health Workers in their communities – to travel and to attend to longstanding health issues.
On the last day everyone learned about grooming, dress sense and about hair care, nails, make-up, feeling confident and looking good. The formal three-course dinner on the last night was the first time for many and provided even more new experiences with food many had never tried before. Everyone dressed up, looked beautiful and had a great time full of laughter and free from their daily family problems and community issues.