Family photos are at the heart of an innovative project to improve women’s wellbeing in the Western Australian Goldfields.
The Goldfields Indigenous Housing Organisation (GIHO) LDAT held a cultural photoshoot and Explore Your Greatness workshops aimed at strengthening Aboriginal women’s confidence and connection to culture and community as protective factors against alcohol and other drug (AOD) harms.
The local community was impacted by a rising rate of suicides and problems relating to excessive AOD use.
After consulting with the tenants of GIHO, the LDAT knew its Community Action Plan needed to focus on positive activities that promoted a sense of belonging for Indigenous families.
Whilst the consultations raised different issues around safety, isolation and a lack of amenities, the common thread was the need for connection, family and culture.
Nakisha Smith, GIHO’s Tenancy Growth Strategy Manager, said that it was important to engage families and give people a sense of pride.
“As a housing organisation we go into a lot of homes and we noticed that there were no photographs. In hard times family portraits can bring comfort and joy, and we thought a photo shoot would be something that everyone would enjoy.
“We wanted to encourage conversations and build connections in the local community whilst also educating women about AOD harms and the support services available.”
“Instead of turning to alcohol in difficult times, we wanted people to know that talking to someone can help in many ways,” explained Nakisha.
In designing their Community Action Plan, the LDAT read many Alcohol and Drug Foundation resources, and picked those that suited them the most. The toolkits used to guide their activities were Alcohol and Pregnancy and Mentoring.
Nakisha also found ADF’s webinars motivating.
“Attending the LDAT Community of Practice online session on Examples of Brilliance, along with being inspired by other LDAT stories driven by Indigenous woman and our focus groups, helped guide us to form relatable content specifically for our communities.”
She added that ADF staff were always on the phone offering support and advice.
The end result was the Explore Your Greatness workshops, held in Leonora, Kalgoorlie-Boulder and Coolgardie, where women participated in activities with local service providers, discovered support networks and had the opportunity to have a professional photograph taken.
Nakisha said that the photo shoot was the highlight of the event, with attendees choosing either a cultural, family or self-portrait.
“Once the women’s shyness disappeared, everyone was into the make-up, hairdressing and nail polish stalls that had been set up.
“The cultural photos with animal skins, Aboriginal textiles and personal ornaments were the most popular.”
After the workshops, participants gave positive feedback about their experience., reinforcing the value of connection to the community.
“As a mum, it feels really nice to get out of the house and do something different. This should happen every few months so anyone that misses out can come along to the next one,” said one of the local mothers.
Nikisha learnt a lot from the project, especially that you should keep promoting your event right up to the day before to be even more successful.
“We put up posters everywhere, sent out fliers, emailed everyone, put it on Facebook groups and did a lot of advertising.”
She said that the community definitely wants more of these kinds of activities.
“Everyone felt good about themselves. There is now an increased sense of self-pride in the local community and people know that they can be referred on to the right place.”
Women are the cornerstone of the family, so supporting them supports the whole family.
The LDAT partners are:GIHO, Thrive Hair & Beauty, Goldfields Women's Health Care Centre, WirraHub (Wirrapanda Foundation), Bega Garnbirringu Health Services, HOPE Community Services, Summer Support Hub and National Indigenous Australians Agency.
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