Linking in action: Women's business in Booroongen Djugun

Everyone loves a coastal road trip on a sunny spring day, particularly when it involves having a yarn with a group of proud Aboriginal women in Port Macquarie to discuss how Ability Links is helping transform their lives.

We first met up with Booroongen Djugun Ability Linker Josie, who’s been partnering with health services to roll out some empowering initiatives for local Aboriginal women focusing on creating positive health outcomes – ‘Closing the Gap’ in action.

Each week a group of women and their children meetup in a shed on the land of Birpai LALC. The shed was hot, but the group listened intently while a nutritionist outlined simple and effective ways to eat more healthily and nurture the body.

Obesity is a massive problem in Australia in general, but with 66% of Indigenous Australians aged 15 years and over having a BMI (body mass index) score in the overweight or obese range (29% overweight and 37% obese) it’s a health issue tearing at the fabric of Aboriginal life.

Like all things related to health however, the issue of addressing how best to improve outcomes is multifaceted, particularly amongst Aboriginal Australians. Frequently Aboriginal people are presented services that are neither culturally appropriate nor sensitive.

To have an Aboriginal Linker like Josie makes a massive difference. Josie has been able to create a meeting place that is culturally aware and addresses directly the needs and identity of the local Aboriginal community.

We sat down with 3 individuals of from this inspiring community to find out how Ability Links has positively impacted their lives and as in most cases the journey to greater empowerment is multilayered.

Our first chat was with Trish who contacted Josie to help her manage her depression more proactively and regain some confidence. She had suffered multiple major depressions which led to being admitted to the local Mental Health Unit. This was not a place she wanted to keep returning and the group has been both a support and motivator. With a passion for crafts she has taken a lot out of the Yarn Group for both the creativity and the opportunity to just chat informally - a huge part of Aboriginal culture.

Cheron had a real tale to tell and many chapters were challenging to hear. Like many Aboriginal people the ‘welfare’ system had not adequately met her needs as an Aboriginal woman. She had lived in lot of places and this instability had led to alcoholism and a feeling of isolation and dislocation. Working with Josie they identified the need to get Cheron closer to family in the local area by both accessing affordable housing and acquiring her driver’s licence so in the interim she could spend time with family in Wauchope. Cheron had put in the hard yards and was as she said, “Moving in the right direction”.

Carol’s story was again one of identity and connection, which the group is providing in bucket loads. Growing up being unable to express her families Aboriginality had caused her lots of distress. Being part of a group with her “sistas and aunties” was giving her a chance to connect with the culture she most identifies with and provides a solid platform to tackle other challenges in life such as accessing services for her children who have some pretty complex needs.

We finished our time there with the weekly tradition of a walk on the beach to yarn about life and connect as a group.

Something very positive is happening in Port Macquarie and it’s great to see another Linker so passionately working within their community to build better lives.

Onya Josie and the girls 👍