Rachael Cavanagh, one of the leaders of the Djinders group, and her daughter Mirring-nga.
Rachael Cavanagh, one of the leaders of the Djinders group, and her daughter Mirring-nga.

Sisters doing it for each other

IN November 2015 a group of like-minded Aboriginal women from the Clarence Valley attended an Aboriginal Women's Domestic Violence Summit held at Mandalong (south of Newcastle). The aim of the summit was to highlight the issues of domestic violence and to support victims and their families.

The women were so inspired by the summit that they decided to form their own domestic violence support group in Grafton. This group has become known as Djinders, which is a Gumbaynggirr word meaning "sister”.

The support group hold a monthly yarning circle to provide support to one another and to plan activities. Djinders is led by a core group of four Aboriginal women - Rachael Cavanagh, Rachael Williams, Roslyn Kennedy and Bundjalung Elder Midge Bancroft.

In 2016 the Djinders fund raised so that they were able to attend a Closing the Gap event in Canberra. This event had a focus on domestic violence. (The Closing the Gap strategy is a Council of Australian Governments (COAG) initiative to reduce the level of disadvantage amongst Aboriginal people.)

Returning from this event motivated the Djinders further. They were able to negotiate with Forestry Corporation of NSW to secure a permit on a portion of land at Ramornie. The permit allows Djinders to use the land for cultural activities.

A lot of thought went into choosing the particular spot for the Djinders. Elders and other community members were consulted, as the Djinders and Forestry Corporation wanted to ensure, that the chosen site was a culturally safe place for all Aboriginal women.

Rachael Cavanagh a spokeswoman of the group says "we want to get the Aboriginal community back on Country”. Djinders intends to use a site mostly for women and children's activities that provide empowerment, although there will be opportunities for the whole of the Aboriginal community to be involved.

There are plans to teach the women the art of cultural burning with the view to setting up a cultural burning team. Cultural burning is a particular method of burning off which Aboriginal people used for thousands of years to maintain the landscape and to ensure a plentiful food supply.

There are also plans to undertake bark canoe and weaving workshops and activities that utilise their newly planted bush tucker garden.

An 8 x 4 metre shelter and a large water tank have already been installed on the land. Two composting toilets and semi-permanent sleeping compartments will be added to the existing structures in the new future.

As well as the support that the Djinders received from Forestry Corporation, they are also assisted by Grafton Ngerrie Local Aboriginal Land Council (LALC) who allows Djinders to hold their monthly gatherings at their premises. The Land Council also auspices any funds that the group receives. Although the group intends to become an incorporated body in their own right, so that they will be able to manage their own funds in future.

Recently SBS reporters visited the property and interviewed members of Djinders for their program -- the Feed, which will be seen on SBS Viceland on November 20. This episode featuring the Djinders, will be one of a number of programs with a domestic violence focus, that SBS have scheduled, in the lead up to White Ribbon day on November 25.

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