NAIDOC Week 2018 – Because of Her, We Can!

July 11, 2018

It’s NAIDOC week, and this year’s theme is Because of Her, We Can! Focusing on the essential role women have played, and continue to play, as role models within the Australian community at all levels.

At Injury Matters, we’re dedicated to celebrating and supporting the achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. We understand there is a high prevalence of injury in Aboriginal communities, with 2.6 times as many injury hospital admissions compared with non-Aboriginal people.

We work to empower people, communities, professionals and agencies to prevent injury and support recovery, and do this through collaboration. Throughout 2017-18, we have worked with a range of inspiring Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women.

Following the 2018 NAIDOC Week theme, we wanted to highlight and recognize the tireless work of the women our organisation has had the opportunity to work with this year.


Pat Dudgeon.

Pat Dudgeon

Director of the Centre of Best Practice in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Suicide Prevention (CBPATSISP) at UWA. Deputy Chair, Australian Indigenous Psychologists Association.

We can… make a difference

My work is about trying to develop cultural awareness and respect for our people. Also, to encourage different approaches – that is empowering and decolonising approaches in the way programs, services and research are undertaken. I am concerned with empowering Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

We can… make change

The best part of my work is when changes are made that treat Indigenous people as equals and value cultural difference. In particular, I am very moved when I see programs I have helped a community organisation develop is delivered and see participants graduate feeling great about themselves and empowered.

We can… be inspired

There are a whole range of women who inspire me: my own family – my mother, grandmother and aunties who had hard lives and struggled in hostile situations just to keep their families together. The younger generation women also inspire me because there are proud and assertive.

I have been fortunate to have some great women as mentors when I was young, such as Dr Joan Winch who taught me to be strong and work for our people. There were other Aboriginal women like Marcia Langton and Aileen Moreton-Robinson who are our leading academics.Their work challenged western paradigms and they are certainly the first in their respective fields. There is a long list of brave Aboriginal women who have broken the ground, who are trail blazers and showed that we are equal in intellectual achievement.

Importantly, there are a long list of community women, our quiet achievers who inspire me. They work hard but often are not celebrated. These are women who might work in community organisations, who also support their families and communities, often putting themselves second in the demands of life. I know many women like this and have some in my own family – they are the rocks that anchor us and hold us safe.


Rebecca (right) and her granddaughter, Alex.

Rebecca Fitzgerald

Facilitator, mentor, coach and business owner.

We can… achieve our goals

My work allows me to work with Aboriginal people and build the bridge with mainstream. It enables me to support and nurture our children and parents to be able to function in mainstream Australia but to be proud of who they are and where they come from.

To encourage them to create their dreams and to set goals in achieving what they thought was impossible. I can also educate and encourage non-Aboriginal Australians to work and engage with Aboriginal people. So for us to work together collaboratively to build a better united community.

We can… make an impact

I am also a Mentor for the Australian Rural Leadership Foundation Milparanga Leadership Program which mentors and supports participants from all around Australia. Being able to mentor and support them in regards to leadership and self-care has been very rewarding.

When I get feedback from the participants and they say they’ve learnt something new because of the time I’ve spent with them is very rewarding. Knowing that I am making a difference and having a positive impact on their lives makes me extremely proud.

We can… be ourselves

The best part of my work is meeting new people (and old) and seeing them grow and develop into confident men and women who believe in themselves and their abilities.

Also I’ve just started my own new business called Kwobbakoort (better heart) it involves educating and healing our mob from past traumas. It focuses on self-care and self-development.

We can… succeed

Rebecca is inspired by Cathy Freeman, with her focus, determination, discipline and commitment to achieve the ultimate success.

Vennessa Poelina (left) & Dr Anne Poelina (right)

Vennessa Poelina

ALIVE and Kicking Goals Suicide Prevention Project Manager

We can… drive awareness

Vennessa is currently the ALIVE and Kicking Goals-Suicide Prevention Project Manager based in Broome. ALIVE and Kicking Goals! (AKG) is a unique community-based, community developed and community-driven as well as peer-led suicide awareness and prevention program grounded in continual learning.

AKG was developed in response to high rates of suicide experienced among young people in the Kimberley; and as a way for the community to begin working towards more effective prevention and better understanding of protection.

AKG is centred on enhancing the capacity, confidence, competence and esteem of young community members through peer education within the frames of suicide awareness and prevention. AKG operates under the Men’s Outreach Services Inc. which is also based in Broome and conducts workshops in schools and communities across the West Kimberley region. The initial mode of delivery was developed through utilising the Broome Saints Football Club (BSFC).

We can… support each other

Vennessa’s practice to date as a Natural Helper, Youth Counsellor, Life Promotion Practitioner, Psychotherapist and Empowerment Facilitator has been focussed on working with young people and their families for over 30 years paying particular attention on the stressors facing young people through enabling and supporting the ability of the young person and their families on a personal and professional basis to engage in help seeking behaviour and to aspire to become socially, culturally and economically engaged whilst sustaining and valuing life.

Vennessa has extensive community engagement experience strengthened by existing cultural, professional and personal networks throughout the Kimberley region and across the nation.

We can… connect

Vennessa was born and raised in Broome by her father who was a hard-helmet Pearl Diver originally from West Timor who came to Australia as indentured labour in the Pearling industry.

Her mother was an ngajanoo Yimardoowarra marnil, meaning “a woman who belongs to our sacred river” the Mardoowarra (Fitzroy River) that passes through the West Kimberley region of Western Australia.

Vennessa’s sister, Dr Anne Poelina, is a source of constant inspiration. She holds a Master of Public Health and Tropical Medicine, Master of Education, Master of Arts (Indigenous Social Policy) and a Doctor of Philosophy.  Dr Poelina is Managing Director of the Madjulla Association, Adjunct Senior Research Fellow University of Notre Dame, Adjunct Research Fellow Charles Darwin University, Deputy Chair and Director of the Walalakoo Native Title Body Corporate and she is also a Peter Cullen Fellow.

She was awarded a Laureate from the Women’s World Summit Foundation (Geneva) (2017) for her work as an Indigenous leader working in rural and remote Australia. She is completing a Doctor of Health Science investigating the cultural determinants of Indigenous health and wellbeing.