NRCF is proud to support Gunawirra, an inspiring organisation that since its inception in 2008 has been committed to improving the lives of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, and providing indigenous children the best start in life possible through quality education, a healthy lifestyle and connection to their heritage and culture.
A portion of the 2020 NRCF Community Grant was originally allocated to Gunawirra in support of onsite workshops for Coraki and Jarjum preschool teachers to help prevent burnout and provide a platform for them to discuss their own traumas and promote self-care and mutual support. However, with Covid-19 impacting access to the schools, an alternative strategy utilising videos shared via virtual platforms was implemented to provide support and a platform for connection.
Covid-19 has had a devastating impact on Gunawirra as an organisation with an increase in domestic and other violence, drug and alcohol related issues, loss of income and suicide. These struggles are on top of difficulties already faced by the schools, communities and individuals. Gunawirra CEO, Graham Toomey told us, “it seems the vulnerable have become more vulnerable with the loss of structure and certainty in their lives due to the pandemic. Isolation and loss of jobs and homes have had a terrible knock-on effect, with many families and individuals being more anxious, frightened, worried, and depressed”.
Thanks to the NRCF grant, social media tools including a Facebook Group and videos on stress management facilitated new opportunities for pre-school staff to access support materials and offer peer support, especially to those experiencing acute isolation. One such digital initiative involved Gunawirra Women’s Cultural Facilitator, Eve White, sharing her experience of meditation and self-awareness in a 30-minute guided meditation video to support teachers in times of overwhelm.
Due to the risk of the spread of Covid-19 in these vulnerable communities, Gunawirra’s fly-in-fly-out (FIFO) Art Therapists were unable to travel. Annette Coulter, an Art Psychotherapist who specialises in trauma and Counsellor, Loren Weber adapted their offering to deliver weekly Zoom sessions for preschool staff. These online sessions proved vital for many teachers, providing much needed emotional support and practical strategies for stress relief. Dovetailing into this need for understanding trauma, a Trauma and Parenting Slideshow for both staff and mothers was produced. A slide show on the Gunawirra Model for Art Therapy and Culture Groups was also created, given how much the two preschools were missing the onsite art therapy activities.
Find out more about the work of Gunawirra HERE