Our Work And Impact
Backing First Nations young women aspiring for health, wellbeing and healing careers; a journey through senior secondary school and beyond...
Our Nyarrn-gakgo mangkie spaces are culturally centred places for First Nations young women to feel grounded, nourished and strong. Nyarrn-gakgo mangkie in Woi Wurrung means “hear within”. Our space’s name, gifted to us by Wurundjeri Elder, Aunty Gail Smith, represents the journey undertaken within this space. This journey entails deep listening to Ancestors, Country and self. Each young woman’s journey is guided by the wisdom of Elders and Aunties, nurtured by the knowledge of First Nations women, held by our First Nations Program Lead and backed by Settler-Australian allies.
We create thoughtful moments and memories, built around a sistahood, for opportunities, experiences, and connections, which encourage reflection, learning and growth. With Nyarrn-gakgo mangkie, First Nations young women journey into health, wellbeing and healing careers with new information, confidence, cultural knowledge and strength in their identity.
Our Nyarrn-gakgo mangkie: Little Sis space is here for First Nations young women in senior secondary school (years 10-12). Our Nyarrn-gakgo mangkie: Big Sis space is here for First Nations young women and women, in tertiary education and/or working in health, wellbeing and healing.
*Nyarrn-gakgo mangkie is a space for female identifying, trans-women, gender-fluid and non-binary mob. We use the term First Nations young women and are here for all sistas; not just cis-ters.*
Our Nyarrn-gakgo mangkie space offers:
Opportunities: Wrapping around First Nations young women to ensure they’re able to thrive, dream and achieve their full potential in education, training and employment.
Experiences: Adding strength to spirit, enhancing social and emotional wellbeing, and being present for the healing of First Nations young women.
Connections: Nurturing a sistahood, forming forever friendships between Elders, Aunties, Weenthunga staff and First Nations women.
Victorian Aboriginal Health and Education Network (VAHEN) online
Encouraging and supporting collaboration between health academics and disciplines across Victorian Universities. Working to address absent, inadequate and/or racist curriculum content about First Nations people.
In 2017, Weenthunga Health Network, with the support of the Victorian Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (VACCHO) hosted the Victorian Aboriginal Health Education Summit. The Summit focused on Aboriginal health outcomes through health education and curricula in Victorian universities. The aim of the Summit was to improve Aboriginal health education in Victorian universities by promoting collaboration and sharing across courses and universities as well as Aboriginal academic leadership, Aboriginal community engagement, and professional development for academics. A key strategy that was strongly supported by Summit attendees was the establishment of an online Victorian network to improve the teaching of Aboriginal health in Victorian universities; VAHENonline brings this strategy to life.
VAHENonline is a vibrant, online platform for collaboration, discussion and sharing resources, approaches and ideas. VAHENonline contributors include community members, academics and health professionals. The platform supports universities to implement the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Curriculum Framework.
The work of VAHENonline is vital as racism is regularly experienced in Victorian health services and settings by First Nations peoples. VAHENonline addresses the need for improved education and preparation of Victorian students studying tertiary health courses each year. First Nations academics are consistently relied on to review and ensure standards of teaching are adequate. This can place a significant cultural load on the individuals. One way in which Universities can decolonise is by moving away from protective and competitive dynamics and instead looking towards First Nations values and approaches, including the practice of reciprocity and sharing in anti-racism work. Achieving systemic change in the sector requires collaboration across health courses and universities through two-way learning.
VAHENonline is presently philanthropic funded. We are seeking financial backing from universities to assist in ongoing sustainability. We thank the Lord Mayor’s Charitable Foundation for their ongoing financial support.
Accessible via the learning management system ‘Moodle’, the VAHENonline space offers users the chance to collaborate through forums, sharing of materials and reflective exercises. There are also content pages that provide resources to embed in teaching and curriculum material.
VAHENonline Monthly Reflective Sessions
These sessions bring together university academics and professional staff across disciplines and institutions to discuss topics, such as: success for First Nations peoples within the institution, delivering content as a Settler Australian lecturer and identity formation.
Fee for Service Workshops
The VAHENonline team can be contracted to deliver fee-for-service workshops to Victorian universities. Sessions can be tailored to meet University needs and may include topics on racism in the classroom, challenging biases, white privilege and white fragility.
To be eligible for VAHENonline, you need to be an academic working within a Victorian university and delivering First Nations content.
Acknowledging the wisdom and knowledge of senior Aboriginal women and ensuring Aunty’s voice is amplified in health and education spaces.
Weenthunga has established a formal Aunty role to shape and implement Weenthunga’s way; that of working in a cross-cultural space and of keeping closely connected to culture. Weenthunga’s Aunty brings leadership, honesty and wisdom within our organisation and network.
Aunty Steff Armstrong, a Gamilaraay and Bigambul woman living on Dja Dja Wurrung Country, was Weenthunga’s inaugural Aunty. Aunty Steff was in this role from 2020-2022. When speaking of her role, Aunty Steff shared: “I am NOT an Elder. I am a mother, sister, wife and Baaggii (Nana). But my increasing community role is Aunt. I now see in this role I will be like the Morten Bay fig tree. To support and nourish from the inside”.
Weenthunga greatly values the role of Aunties in the First Nations community and the broader community. Across all of our spaces, we ensure Aunties inform our work.
We’ve listened to and been guided by Aunties’ voices strategically, operationally, at events and when yarning with young women, staff, Members and our Committee of Management.
Cultural Safety and Critical Consciousness Workshops
Transforming the understanding and practice of individuals and organisations through unpacking discomfort, power, privilege, oppression, racism, justice, decolonising and working two-way. A personal, professional, and organisational development opportunity.
Weenthunga’s training, workshops and consulting services aim to support learning, reflection and growth at an individual and organisational level. Our workshops and consulting services are delivered by a two-way facilitation team, joining First Nations and Settler-Australian voices in this space. Weenthunga’s approach allows for the bringing together of diverse knowledges, understandings and lived experiences. Topics covered can be compared and contrasted from these different experiences and perspectives, resulting in a deeper and more comprehensive understanding.
Weenthunga is positioned to deliver this training due to the lived experiences of staff, as well as the experiences shared with us by First Nations health professionals and the young women in our programs (as employees and students respectively).
Improving the understanding and practice of Settler-Australian health professionals working with First Nations people, as well as recruiting and retaining First Nations health professionals, are critical to achieving equity in health. This requires mainstream health organisations to identify and challenge the way institutional racism shapes their interactions with First Nations staff and patients.
“This work is about leadership to bring about transformational change. It’s a life-long process, towards a vision of cultural humility. Weenthunga’s process to begin this work, relies heavily on firstly being guided by First Nation wisdom and ‘backed’ by a trusted ally”