In September 2022 our team delivered the first Yanalangami co-design in person community program, bringing our valuable model of Aboriginal women’s cultural leadership to 22 Tasmanian Aboriginal women in Lutruwita (Tasmania).
This collaboration began more than one year before when our Tranby CEO Dr Belinda Russon and deadly female leader and Lutruwita community member, Tarni Matson, met floating across the beautiful waters of Gadigal country at a Jawun Indigenous women’s leadership event. The two women yarned about the importance of mentorship and strong networks for Aboriginal women. Belinda shared the incredible journey of Tranby’s growing Yanalangami Program and Tarni reflected that there needed to be more opportunities for connection, healing and leadership for Tasmanian Aboriginal women to amplify our voices, our way. On this day, the seed for Yanalangami Lutruwita was planted.
Fast forward several months, Tranby was successful in receiving a Tasmanian Community Fund Grant to fund the development and delivery of a Yanalangami Lutruwita in-person program. In February 2022, our Yanalangami team; Aunty Ber, Jacinta and Tranby CEO Dr Belinda, travelled down to strengthen our relationships with local community and start dreaming and planning the program with our community partners Michelle Maynard (WAPA) and Tarni Matson. This trip aligned our visions for a successful program and mapped out the journey we were all ready to take – bringing the powerful Yanalangami Cultural Leadership model down to Lutruwita.
Embarking on the journey of leadership is not an easy road to take…it takes bravery, courage and vulnerability but also a commitment to self-work, growth and healing. Fortunately, our deadly group of Yanalangami Lutruwita Changemakers were all ready for this leadership journey.
During the inaugural Yanalangami Lutruwita four-day leadership retreat, the Changemakers gathered in circle for women’s business. Together, as guided by the joined facilitation team (Michelle Maynard (WAPA), Tarni Matson (Lutruwita Community representative), Bernice Hookey (Yanalangami) and Jacinta Bailey (Yanalangami), we created a safe space to learn and unlearn our limitations and refresh and reawaken our resilient feminine leadership for ourselves, our families, our communities and our Country. As a collective, we invited the women into their hopes and dreams for their futures and together we mapped a pathway to healing as Tasmanian Aboriginal women.
Throughout the days, we felt the warmth of each soul, not because of the room temperature but because of the people temperature, the love that surrounded us in feeling blessed to sit in circle, surrounded by strong Tasmanian Aboriginal women, walking this journey for themselves, their families and their communities. The process of learning leadership provided many tools to the group, inviting everyone to use reflection, yarning and art to process and move through emotions and barriers.
The invitation to draw how we are feeling, write how we are feeling, colour how we are feeling or collage how we are feeling was a powerful exercise that supported the women to bring it all together, slowly collecting the pieces of their puzzle back to their whole selves. We watched women create goals for themselves and their communities. This process of individual reflection and group sharing empowered each of us to believe in ourselves more strongly, grounded in the knowledge that when we surround ourselves with women that we can lean on, we can be open and vulnerable and resilient throughout life’s challenges. For all women involved it was a memorable journey.
In particular, the walk together on country was a truly special moment of connection individually and collectively. Each Tasmanian Aboriginal woman invited to walk their own country, alongside us as invited guests welcomed with open arms. Together breathing in the serenity of the beauty that surrounds us, this connection to country which binds us all and makes us proud to be amongst strong Aboriginal women, amongst Elders and amongst Mother Country. New and old relationships flourished, inspiration re-energising us; walking, touching and feeling the country, all grounded in a deep sense of belonging and connection.
For our team, adapting Yanalangami to an in-person healing workshop that was locally grounded in community co-creation was a new chapter for our national cultural leadership program. Since 2020 Yanalangami has brought women together from around Australia to connect, inspire and strengthen networks across Aboriginal lands. In Lutruwita, throughout the process of co-creation and delivery, as a team, we stepped into unchartered waters which challenged and invigorated our experiences and learnings along the way. Our takeaways have been useful in grounding and nurturing future in-person programs.
Yanalangami Lutruwita has been a deep learning journey, demonstrating what is possible and highlighting areas for growth and reflection. There are many processes that we would change and enhance for our next programs but ultimately, the energy, love, tenacity and motivation that the entire facilitation team brought to each zoom call, planning meeting and in-person session demonstrates that the true power behind a program like this is the women leading from behind, determined to connect and inspire strong women.
Over the course of 4 days, it was incredible to watch the women step more firmly into their power. The in-person localized format of Yanalangami Lutruwita was therefore an exercise in shared leadership, determination and women’s place-based activism. This journey together in Lutruwita demonstrated that for Aboriginal women, leadership is a way of life. It is an inherited valuing of connection and reciprocity. A commitment to cultivating beautiful and safe spaces with and for community, so that girls and women feel empowered, valued and listened too. We are proud that all the deadly women from Lutruwita embraced the meaning of Yanalangami, ‘you and me, we walk together’ and did so with purpose and passion.
Looking back, we will cherish the laughs, yarns and cries and connections shared with our deadly Lutruwita sisters for many moons to come.
We are so grateful for this journey we’ve walked together; so humbled to have learned from each of you sisters.
More than anything, we are excited and inspired by these connections and to see what grows from the seeds we all planted together.
In love and solidarity,
Aunty Ber, Jacinta & the Yanalangami team.