Aboriginal-led support group connects members to culture and each other

Posted 1 year ago by Bianca Iovino
Part of the yarning group. [Source: City of Armadale]
Part of the yarning group. [Source: City of Armadale]

A Western Australian support group is helping Aboriginal people with disabilities connect to each other and their culture in a way that is pricking up the ears of other disability service providers.

Centred around storytelling, sharing food, painting, guest speakers and excursions, the three-hour weekly “yarning group” sessions in Perth’s South East are proving popular, offering a more culturally-appropriate option in the disability sector. 

Interest in the yarning group has begun to grow as mainstream providers express their interest, but group leader, Noongar Yamatji woman Kerri Colgate, says it would be hard to replicate the environment she has helped create. 

“We are starting to see a little bit of a rise of providers out there wanting to know more information, certainly tapping into places like ourselves,” Ms Colgate told ABC.

“The elders we have here provide that safe connection through kinship that allows someone to feel confident and open to being who they are.”

Ms Colgate’s mother, Cheryl Taylor, is a Noongar elder at the Champion Centre in Seville Grove where the yarning group meets and believes the lack of Aboriginal-led, culturally-driven disability services in Australia isn’t the fault of the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS).

“What we need to get better at is once that [NDIS] plan gets outside that building, how do we build the capacity of all the providers and the community, getting the best deal for the participant?” she also told ABC.

“The number of Aboriginal people on the NDIS is probably quite large, from a business perspective, it’s really quite responsible for them to grow their capacity around understanding the cultural needs of their participant or their client.”

First Peoples Disability Network Deputy Chief Executive and Gumbaynggirr Dunghutti woman, June Riemer, says the issue of culturally-safe care for those with a disability stretches nationwide and having access to it is important for Indigenous peoples. 

“This understanding helps ensure the right care and services are offered to our people in the right context, and ideally delivered on country for maximum effect,” Ms Riemer says.

“As a people we are not one cohesive culture — we are made up of hundreds of languages and people with different traditions and even different skin groups, bringing different approaches to kinship and care. 

“Addressing Aboriginal people as one unit is like expecting everyone in Europe to speak the one language and share the one culture — that’s not reality and taking that approach would be regarded as not inclusive.”

If you are interested in getting involved in the yarning group, contact the City of Armadale council on 08 9394 5000, email [email protected] or visit their website.