The importance of Youth Focus Meekatharra’s Young Women’s Group has been brought to the fore at this year’s fair.ground conference, hosted by Youth Affairs Council WA.
Mental Health Clinician Nicholah Wasarirevu and Youth Engagement Coordinator Deanne Young presented on the Meekatharra Young Women’s Group, and the crucial role it plays in creating intergenerational healing, while providing a safe space for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young women.
“The Meekatharra Young Women’s Group fosters a sense of sisterhood, cultural connection, and empowerment among the participants,” Nicholah explains. “By providing safe and affirming spaces, these groups can have several positive impacts.”
The Meekatharra Young Women’s Group was started by Nicholah, Deanne and Youth Focus Meekatharra Team Leader Paulette Anderson, who wanted to create a safe space for young women to come together, connect, and bond through sisterhood.
For Deanne, the Young Women’s Group holds special meaning, as her Great Grandmother, Avy Curley, established a club for the Aboriginal people in the town – the Bundi (“Good”) Club – in Meekatharra in 1962. The Young Women’s Group continues this legacy.
“Meekatharra’s Young Women’s Group is a safe space for young people to learn, share experiences, as well as passed-on knowledge from community members and Elders,” Deanne explains.
“The long-term goal is to continue the passing down of knowledge from Elders and Aunties to the young women, empowering them and fostering generational healing,” Deanne adds. “We accomplish this through music, art and cooking. We also host educational sessions including mindfulness, yoga, haircare, and dental hygiene.”
According to Nicholah, the Young Women’s Group allow participants to:
Heal. Through storytelling, art, and other therapeutic activities, young women can process their emotions, validate their experiences, and heal from intergenerational trauma. This healing process contributes to breaking the cycle of trauma transmission.
Build resilience. The group helps foster resilience by promoting a sense of belonging and cultural pride. Participants can draw strength from their shared experiences and cultural heritage, which can empower them to overcome adversity and navigate the challenges they face in their lives.
Develop leadership skills. By engaging in collective decision-making, organising events, and advocating for their rights, young women can develop confidence, assertiveness, and a sense of agency.
Come together with different generations. Elders and older community members can share their wisdom, cultural knowledge, and stories of resilience with younger generations, fostering a sense of continuity and connection to their cultural heritage.
Build collective strength. Young women’s groups encourage intercultural sisterhood by bringing together participants from diverse backgrounds and cultural identities. This promotes understanding, empathy, and solidarity among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young women and fosters a sense of collective strength.
Youth Focus Meekatharra’s Young Women’s Group aims to empower young people to heal from racial trauma, embrace their cultural identity, and build a legacy of strength and intergenerational healing within the Meekatharra Aboriginal community.
For the young women of the group, the power of talking, listening, and openly conversing has a big impact on self-esteem. “It makes me feel better about myself,” one young woman stated.
By addressing racial trauma and promoting healing across generations, the group seeks to create lasting positive change and inspire other communities to do the same.
“By honouring the narratives of young people and reclaiming cultural practices, we can challenge Westernized standards and create a powerful ripple effect that extends beyond individual healing, inspiring systemic change,” Nicholah says.
“Just as everything grows in red dirt, from the soil of colonisation, new narratives bloom. This toolkit will be watered and ushered by the young people of Meekatharra. By honouring their narratives and reclaiming cultural practices, we aim to create a powerful ripple effect that extends beyond individual healing to inspire systemic change.”