Developing Capacity of Remote Aboriginal Women to Become Community Researchers

The 100 Women Advisory Board is delighted to inform our members that this project is now officially complete! We are also keen to share some of its positive outcomes with you, demonstrating the impact that your membership with 100 Women is having on the lives of women and children in Australia.

But first, a message from Telethon Kids Institute to 100 Women Members:

“The vision of 100 Women is inspiring! We are so grateful to the members’ support of our project over the past two years. It truly has made a difference to the lives of the women involved in the capacity building project. Thank you especially for the opportunities provided to share our work with the wider 100 Women community at both the grant awards evening and education connect events. Thank you once again for your generous support”

This project is grounded in a long-standing engagement of researchers from the Telethon Kids Institute (TKI) with Aboriginal communities in the Fitzroy Valley of Western Australia. In this remote and vast area, chronic oversupply and overuse of alcohol created serious health impacts including Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD), a condition that can lead to poor educational and social outcomes as children struggle to cope with the demands of school and community life. Through an intervention research study called the Alert Program®, which aims to improve self-regulation and executive functioning in children with FASD, researchers at TKI had seen that with support, women could create positive change in their communities.

As such, this project was designed with a twofold objective: providing education and employment for Aboriginal women from selected remote Fitzroy Valley Aboriginal communities, whilst simultaneously increasing the women’s understanding of the Alert Program®. To achieve this objective, TKI facilitated the enrolment of six women into a Certificate II in Community Services course at North Regional TAFE. In addition, the women received employment and training from Telethon Kids Institute to become community researchers on the Alert Program®.

Of the six women enrolled in the course, two completed the Certificate II in Community Services. The remaining four completed multiple units of competency towards their Certificate II and are continuing with their studies. All six women participated in a trip to Telethon Kids Institute in Perth as part of their training to become community researchers on The Alert Program®

The Community Researcher trip to Perth had a packed agenda, in particular providing the participants with an opportunity to broaden their understanding of the work Telethon Kids Institute is doing through the Alert Program®. Some highlights included meeting with Institute Director Professor Jonathan Carapetis (AM), a lunch and learn session with research team members, an on-country walk at Piney Lakes to learn about Noongar women’s cultural practices and discussions with Telethon Kids Institute’s Aboriginal Research coordinators about future training options and professional development needs of Aboriginal community researchers.

A highlight for 100 Women was the opportunity for Board Members Kristy, Carol, and Michelle to meet with the participants and hear more about the challenges they face living in the Fitzroy Crossing region, whilst also sharing ideas on ways to overcome some of these challenges. All this followed by a delicious afternoon tea of freshly baked damper.

The combination of the TAFE course and Telethon’s employment of the women as community researchers has helped to build the women’s confidence in numerous ways, including using English in a range of unfamiliar situations; interpersonal support for other women within their community; understanding issues impacting their community; increased opportunities to contribute to discussions and make decisions relating to research activities happening in their community and increased knowledge and skill relating to general work readiness.

Some feedback from the women when asked “what have you enjoyed about the project”?

“I like working with children and helping them do good in school, also parents”

“It help me get my certificate and knowing other things in the work place. What my rights are in work and how people should work in the workplace, help me learn a lot. All finished now and I thank the ladies for putting me through the course. Gave me better understanding why people keep doing research to help the kids.”

“It’s good to be near kids to help them”

“I like working with kids and parents”

“I could learn more about working with kids in our school who has FASD and how can we help them”

It is worth noting that the original grant of $39,450 was intended to fund enrolment in the Certificate II for ten Aboriginal women. Unfortunately, due to personal, community and cultural reasons, four of the original women were unable to attend the course. In addition to this, the course provider was changed, creating a considerable cost saving. In total, a significant underspend of $26,211 was returned to 100 Women and added to this year’s grant pool – allowing even more important work to be done to support women and children around the world.

Carol Yiannopoulos & Michelle Emmett

100 Women Advisory Board

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