A school-based program which draws on Aboriginal teachings is helping to empower teenage girls across the region.
Journey Stones is part of a suite of programs run by the Illawarra and Shoalhaven Women’s Health Centre to improve girls’ mental health and well-being.
The centre needs to raise $30,000 so the successful programs – including Mothers and Daughters, Lovebites and Journey Stones – can continue to run. It will hold its inaugural fundraising dinner at the Kiama pavilion on Friday to get the ball rolling.
On Thursday, Aboriginal social worker Denika Thomas was in the midst of a Journey Stones group at Oak Flats High School. The informal session centred around a collection of 13 stones; each of which imparted a different message or teaching.
‘’The Journey Stones program is based on Aboriginal teachings from Aunty Minmia, who is a Wirradjurri Elder,’’ Ms Thomas said.
‘’The stones are used in a group setting to help the young women to further understand themselves and their behaviours. ...I want to teach them this understanding so emotions can no longer control them.
‘’I do this through the stones, each of which represents an Australian animal. For instance the platypus which has teachings around unconditional love; the wombat which is about determination and stubbornness and the gecko which is about courage and fear.’’
Ms Thomas said the program was often run in conjunction with other programs, as well as one-on-one counselling.
‘’I believe through feedback from the young women that this has increased social supports, increased well-being, increased resilience and empowered young women to make a proactive change within their lives,’’ she said. ‘’I have seen this program decrease bullying behaviours, decreased alcohol and drug consumption, decreased negative relationships.’’
Women’s Health Centre general manager Sally Stevenson said the programs were in high demand.
‘’The impact of the overall program is significant for a large number of young – often at risk – women,’’ she said. ‘’We work with them so they can manage their mental health now and develop mental health resilience that will last a lifetime.’’
‘’We also develop knowledge and life skills that will allow them to manage their sexual and reproductive health and to sufficiently protect themselves against domestic violence by learning about healthy relationships and how to identify and escape violent ones.’’
For information about Friday’s event, or donate to the programs, contact 4255 6800.