The Tramulla Strong Women’s Group (LDAT Kalumburu) has been working to tackle issues related to the harms from alcohol and other drugs (AOD) within their community.
The group is led by Gertrude Waina, Doreen Unghango and Margaret Peumora and was formed in 2007 as an informal peer support group with the aim of creating a healthy, vibrant Kalumburu community. The elders provide mentoring and support for the younger women who participate in the group’s projects.
Kalamburu is a small, very remote Aboriginal community of 550 residents in far north Western Australia. The majority of the population consists of young people due to the early morbidity rates in the area. This remoteness means that there are limited services in town and very limited communication options. In November 2018, the community received mobile coverage although the internet access can be unreliable. Most community members do not have personal computers or laptops, providing further issues for access to services. There are limited job opportunities and no self-employment opportunities. A large part of the community is either unemployed or engaged in Work for the Dole.
“In order to tackle this, the Tramulla Strong Women’s Group came up with the idea to create culturally relevant activities and microenterprises to connect people to country and culture, including a community op shop, photography projects, and a weaving revival project.”
The group set up these projects in the hope that small businesses could sell items like photographs or weaving, attract tourism to the area and strengthen their community partnerships. They’ve had great success, especially with young women engaging in the photography project who launched the Kalumburu Photography Collective and created a calendar in 2018.
Despite the challenges they face, the Kalamburu community dreams of creating enterprise pathways for young people. Members from the Tramulla Strong Women’s Group visited the senior women at Marninwarntikura Women’s Resource Centre in Fitzroy Crossing last year and came back with some great community strategies for their own work. This trip was supported by Connect Groups, a not-for-profit community based organisation that provides assistance for individuals and support groups with start-up, ongoing development, advocacy and networking.
The Tramulla Strong Women’s Group has strong support from Enterprise Learning Projects (ELP) and Enterprise Partnerships WA (EP WA). Enterprise Partnerships WA’s model is based on the successful not-for-profit organisation Enterprise Learning Projects (ELP), launched in the Northern Territory in 2010. ELP has been supporting Kalumburu under the ELP banner since 2015. Enterprise Partnerships WA (EP WA) is a not-for-profit social enterprise which exists to foster and support grassroots micro business development in remote Aboriginal communities and promote health and wellbeing. The two organisations now work together at a strategic level to drive sector wide initiatives and enable grassroots enterprise development across remote Australia.
These partnerships work to build the group’s capacity even further, ensuring they have the backing to deliver these programs well and the ability to make the programs sustainable into the future. EP WA works in Kalumburu in partnership with the Kalumburu Aboriginal Corporation, East Kimberley Job Pathways and the Strong Women’s Centre.
Tramulla Strong Women’s Group invited ELP and EP WA to work with them to support microenterprise in Kalumburu and a formal partnership was formed in 2016. The women organised a bush camp to discuss the future direction of the group and to invite younger women to join the group. A camp was held at MarraGarra in June 2018 with the support of EP WA facilitators Clare Wood and Susannah Wallman. The group had a chance to participate in activities together, to reflect on the community-led projects that they had run so far, to talk about future hopes for healing initiatives for their community and to develop a strategic plan to expand their reach and ability.
““Anecdotally, women would say when they have participated in some of the workshops that it takes their stress away,” said Clare Wood, from Enterprise Learning Projects.”
“I know when I see young people go out to country and collect plants and learn about bush medicine, when they come back to the community they are visibly more relaxed. Ultimately, if people are feeling like their stress is under control and they’re more relaxed then they are going to be less likely to want [to take drugs] and drink alcohol.”
In future, EP WA would like to measure the success of the project more formally. Funding from the Alcohol and Drug Foundation’s Local Drug Action Team Program (LDAT) will help the group to measure and evaluate the impact of these activities in a stronger way. This evaluation would include anecdotal evidence from the women before and after they’ve participated in the projects. It would measure their wellbeing and mental health status and determine how that influences their use of alcohol and other drugs. The group will also aim to strengthen partnerships with local police to see if harm has been reduced in the community.
“Clare Wood said that being part of the LDAT Program has been a rewarding experience. “It was an amazing process to consult with the senior women and young women about what ideas they had that could reduce alcohol-related harm.”
“In terms of focusing on microenterprise, it’s quite an innovative way of addressing some of these harms and mental health challenges. What’s great about it is that they’re local place-based solutions and the women have a real passion and drive to make their community a stronger place and they also have the solutions. This funding and the support from the LDAT Program enables the women to do what they feel they need to do to make their community a safer place.”