The Weenthunga Health Network contributes to health equity for Victoria’s First Nations Peoples. Increasing the Aboriginal health workforce is one means and through Weenthunga’s Nyarrn-gakgo mangkie Programs, First Nations young womxn are being empowered, nurtured, and strengthened in identity to be the next generation of health professionals.
In 2020, Geelong’s Nyarrn-gakgo mangkie program received $30,000 from the Give Where You Live Foundation, ensuring the program’s continuity and expansion, making changes to young lives. The program backs First Nations young womxns’ journeys through secondary school and health pathways into TAFE, University and the employment sector.
Mutti Mutti and Wamba Wamba young womxn Bri Smith, is one young womxn connected to program. Initially, Bri was apprehensive about joining, however she perceived it as an opportunity to explore her interests in pharmaceutical technology. “It was a big step, because you never know what and who’s going to be involved, but I did and I felt so embraced.”
Bri felt the positive support of the program “It doesn’t stop after secondary school; you continue to get support.” Recent cultural event ‘Lunchtime Yarnz & Connections’, invited young womxn to listen to the stories and insights of respected community role models, Aunty May (Taungurung/Yorta Yorta), Aunty Athalie (Yorta Yorta) and Aunty Steff (Gamilaraay/Bigambul) Bri shared her experience “Meeting the Aunties was great because I hadn’t met many Elders. They gave me comfort and acceptance. These womxn lead the way for us, I’m really humbled to have spent so much time with them, it made me feel like it’s all achievable.”
Thanks to her experience in the program, Bri feels that her connection to community and culture has deepened. “I feel connected on a deeper level, the cultural support is huge. Before the program I had no confidence, I wouldn’t put my hand up in class because I was too scared. The program supports your decisions, helps you do your best and to find yourself. I have confidence and reassurance in who I am now, my growth is emerging.”
Bri is currently studying Certificate IV in Laboratory Techniques at The Gordon and is working as a Pharmacy Assistant with a University Degree in sight.