Strong Women Talking is a movement of First Nation women who are extremely passionate about breaking the cycle of violence. It was founded by Sono Leone. She has several First Nations Elders who work closely with her in this work mentoring the women who are in the program. Aunty Jackie is one of them.
My name is Aunty Jackie. I was born in Cherbourg, so I'm WakaWaka. My grandfather is Lamalama from up north Queensland and my grandmother on my father's side is WakaWaka, but then my grandmother on my mother's side she's Gunggari. I always say we go by your mother's clan but I always say where all my clans are. I am one of the elders who supports women going through Strong Women Talking’s Healing Journey.
My story is that I'm a survivor of domestic violence. I think that's why I was drawn to the Strong Women Talking program. Back in the day when I was going through domestic violence no one was offering support in a cultural way. There were always the shelters and things like that that I could go to, or you were taken to the police but you mainly had to be brave.
I think a lot of women have to be brave to get out of situations they end up in. Every day we Aboriginal people have to be brave, because you don't know what you are going to have to face. We have always been treated differently to non-Indigenous people. I think you have to be brave to be black! Especially when it comes to reconciliation and stuff like that.
Women have to be strong and brave to get out of a toxic relationship. I did it with help from my brother. Sadly, a lot of women don't have help like that. Strong Women Talking has helped women get away and restart their lives. They have to be brave to make those decisions.
I've never seen anything like this program that works in cultural ways. Strong Women Talking is a domestic violence program that only works with women. A lot of services work with the families or they work with the children but at Stronger Women Talking we just work with the woman. We know that if we can help a woman get through all the stuff she is facing, the family will benefit from it. If she can heal, if she can get better, if she can get stronger, then the whole family benefits.
Strong Women Talking helps women to be brave and to have the courage to make change. At Strong Women Talking we understand Indigenous women because we have been there and we know how they are feeling. Some of them get into a deep depression, and they can't find their way out. We can say, “Yep, I've been down the track. You just got to come back and take this other track now. Take this other road, and there is a light at the end of the tunnel. We can help.”
Some of the women don't want to talk when they first come in, but when they keep coming, they open up more. They feel safe, and come to feel confident - they can tell their story. They tell each other their stories at times but having an Aunty like Edwina and myself there makes them feel more comfortable and we are able to share our experience with them.
I think women come to Strong Women Talking because they feel safe here. They feel that they can talk to us because we understand, because we are Indigenous. A lot of the women who come don't have any mothers. Often their mothers have passed on and some of them are from families that don’t have strong connections, but when they come they have Aunty Edwina and myself as Elders. We listen and we understand because we've been through it. The women know that they can talk to us about it. I really wish that I had something like this when I was going through all my stuff. There should be something like this in every major town!
I believe that through Sono’s1 faith in God she is able to do a lot of good things for the women, and being part of this work has changed me too! Spending time with Sono and Edwina and the women has changed me so much. Because Strong Women Talking is a Christian organisation their faith influences everyone involved including me! A lot of my family have noticed a change in me. I'm a better person for working there.
A lot of the women, especially the young ones, don’t really know what they're really going through and a lot of them aren't brave enough to leave those bad situations. So they just continue to keep going through that cycle of violence.
I want to see my great grandkids grow up and all of my granddaughters happy and having good lives, and not go through what I've gone through what their mothers have gone through.
1. Sono Leone is the Founder/Director of Strong Women Talking