Despite our country’s many advantages and continued high rankings in Human Development Reports, many Indigenous and refugee communities continue to face significant disadvantages, especially in health, education, housing and employment.
Both in our cities and in remote areas, these communities face challenges every day that the rest of Australia would find difficult.
Our refugee and Indigenous projects are spread across Australia and focus on education as a means of empowering our newest and oldest members of society.
The Cape York Girl Academy is a first-of-its-kind boarding school in Wangetti Beach, near Cairns. It provides Indigenous teenage girls – who are young mothers, or otherwise at risk from chronic disengagement with their education – the opportunity to complete their education.
Here teenage mothers and their babies live and learn together, gain essential work and life skills and improve and maintain their physical, social and emotional well being. They learn essential parenting skills to care for their own children.
These girls are less likely to be the primary carer for their child, complete their education, have fewer opportunities for employment and can become dependant on passive welfare.
Now in our second year of partnership with The Cape York Girl Academy, in 2022 Mercy Works supports a project which will purchase new sensory technology for a culturally appropriate multi-sensory de-escalation room. Students can go to this room to feel transported into a familiar setting before they lose control. Here, they can take time to centre themselves.
As a forward thinking school, The Cape York Girl Academy wants to elevate the level of therapeutic intervention available on campus and provide spaces where students can go before they have physical or emotional outbursts, which can often mean they lose one to two hours of learning time. The room will reduce this time to 15 minutes.
Mercy Works is proud of our partnership over a number of years with Baabayn Aboriginal Corporation in Mt Druitt. By supporting a Child Care project in the western suburbs of Sydney, Mercy Works has enabled the Baabayn Aboriginal Corporation to provide a culturally sensitive program each Wednesday.
While the children embrace enthusiastically basic pre-school activities, their mothers participate in a program to help improve mental health and confidence through a cultural exploration of different artistic media as well as learn different skills, gain friendships and start exploring their own business ideas.
This project also supports further Business Administration training of a young Aboriginal mother who is the childcare worker and now an empowered educator.
In South Australia, some women with pregnancy complications from the remote and rural regions of the state are forced to travel to hospitals in towns such as Ceduna, Port Lincoln and Port Augusta or Adelaide to deliver their babies. This situation leads to long periods of separation from their families, Country and critical support networks. Sometimes Aboriginal mothers find themselves homeless, and possibly living in the parklands in Adelaide.
The Adelaide First Nations Advocacy project is based in Adelaide. Aboriginal Elder women have formed a Committee to provide outreach support to Aboriginal mothers as they deal with child protection issues. They have formed a group called the Nunga Babies Watch and are now advocating to parliament and providing support including access to legal advice, case management, court support, and links to support services and other organisations.
Establishing this proactive service for Aboriginal families aims to reduce the number of babies removed from their families without adequate consultation and warning, while making sure they feel culturally supported and informed.
Salt n’ Pepper
Salt n’ Pepper is located in Adelaide, South Australia and is a pre and post release outreach project that works with Aboriginal women to help bridge the equity gap. The volunteer based team of Elder Aboriginal women offers culturally appropriate support, both emotional and practical, to Aboriginal women in prison and following their release back into the community.
Aboriginal women are often caught in a cruel cycle of incarceration and release then homelessness, re-offending and re-incarceration. Untreated physical and mental health, addiction and a loss of skills and financial independence increases the risk of reoffending and severely impacts their self-esteem. The stigma that surrounds this issue is a large part of the reason why Aboriginal women are more vulnerable to this cycle.
This program offers Aboriginal women in the post-prison release program, the opportunity to undertake leadership training to learn skills in mentoring and peer support for other Aboriginal women leaving prison. Educating these vulnerable women will give them the skills and knowledge to keep themselves, their children and their families safer in the future.
Yartangka Tirkanthi – Learning on Country
This new Mercy Works partnership hopes to give young Aboriginal people access to cultural and language learning opportunities through visits ‘on country’.
This project honours the potential of indigenous youth and workers to grow their knowledge and in turn foster healing and belonging. Reconnecting with local elders creates an opportunity for the ongoing survival of their culture and pride in their heritage.