Aboriginal Reflections on Dynamic Exchange’s Women of Worth (WOW) Program

2457331Politically, it’s been a hectic few weeks for Australia with Tony Abbott being forced to make way for our new leader, Malcolm Turnbull. To date, we’re seeing some really encouraging signs from our new Prime Minister, particularly in relation to the $40 million plus package fighting domestic violence (you can read the Australian Financial Review article focusing on this here).

For a long time now, Dynamic Exchange’s Women of Worth (WOW) program has been addressing issues related to women and domestic violence. So you can only imagine how happy I am to see the government finally putting in a huge effort and funding into this space.

Over the years, I’ve talked quite a bit about the power of women when they come together (watch my Women Playing Big for Social Change video) and for good reason too.

In my mind, the WOW program wouldn’t be what it is without Councillor Maryann Coconut. I can only describe Maryann as a true champion of the program. Not to mention, for decades, she has worked tirelessly alongside other community leaders such as Duri Davui to raise awareness in relation to the rights of women and community safety.

As the Councillor of the Napranum Aboriginal community, Maryann leads the way in relation to education and social services. She believes that education is essential to community progress and has completed a Bachelor of Community Management at Macquarie University. Here are some words from Maryann herself that really capture her beliefs:

We, the people, are the Caretakers of this Land; given to us by the Creator Spirit who is the Creator. We acknowledge Him with adoration and thanksgiving. We, the Elders, are the Gate Keepers. This is an age-old role given to us by our Ancestors. Our knowledge and wisdom of our country is still strong; and will remain invisible and well guarded in our spirit till we die. Our spirit will pass this knowledge on to the next Elder in line.

6708386Maryann has always been supportive of the WOW program – when I asked her why, she said it’s another way we can address empowerment and work towards positive social change.

To explain a little more about the program itself, essentially, it sees us asking these two important questions:

1. Who am I?
2. Why am I here?

The 3-day experience is all about self-discovery and healing and is run alongside the Men of Worth program (as I’ve said before, both men and women need to be pro-active in regards to this issue).

After completing the program herself, I recorded Maryann’s experience. Here’s a snapshot of her feedback.

What did you want to achieve by attending this program?
I wanted to gain more knowledge and become a stronger mentor.

What did you find most valuable?
I saw the change in the young women simply by speaking out and not feeling ashamed.

How has this program helped you?
It strengthened me to be able to further support all of the women in Napranum, women of all ages – our women of worth.

How will the outcomes of this program help the Napranum community?
It will help to build a stronger foundation and to raise the bar higher.

I’m humbled to say that a lot of women have now completed the WOW program and it’s incredibly humbling to read the feedback from women afterwards.

Before I sign off, earlier, I mentioned Duri Davui. I can’t finish off this blog without giving this woman the recognition she deserves. Duri is a spiritual leader of the Napranum Community and the co-ordinator of the Elders Justice Group Community and development worker.

“Be strong and never give up.”

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