Apunipima, Balkanu and Aurukun Women Work Together for Cape York Mums
Apunipima Cape York Health Council, Balkanu Cape York Development Corporation and the Aurukun Women’s Sewing Group are working together to provide locally made items for Apunipima’s Baby Baskets which go out to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander mums on the Cape.
Apunipima Maternal and Child Health Team Leader Nie Sheehan says the beauty of the partnership was that it supported economic development on the Cape, provided real work for community members, and ensured new mums received beautiful, locally made items.
‘Our team has contracted the Women’s Sewing Group to make cloth bags, baby rugs and birthing sarongs for Baby Baskets which are given to mums during pregnancy and the post-natal period.
‘Apunipima is all about getting beyond the clinic. We realise that true health has many factors, from culturally appropriate care to addressing the social determinants of health such as training and employment. We tick all these boxes by working with Balkanu and the women of Aurukun.’
The Aurukun Women’s Sewing Group is an initiative of Balkanu’s Women’s Enterprise Facilitator Tracey Ludwick, whose other projects include a Cape York Products Website, the Balkanu Guest House in Coen, and a bush fruit enterprise in Hopevale. A project to create ‘Wikipedia-like’ database of Bama knowledge with the women of Hopevale is currently under development.
The Sewing Group was established in mid – 2011 with the women initially learning sewing skills and working towards their Certificate II in cloth production.
Tracey says her role is to fill the gap between skills and work.
‘I come from a background of job providers and Welfare Reform, and I understand that many people have a lot of tickets but not enough work. I wanted to create real jobs so in mid-2013 we leased a shop in Aurukun’s new business precinct. The front area is our retail space, and we have industrial sewing machines out the back with women sewing for contracts such as the one we have in place with Apunipima.
‘The project is really successful. Apunipima has negotiated a second contract with the Group and with those orders, plus the Island Princess clothing line, we are at capacity. We have a lot of work on and we are considering opening workshops in Coen and Hopevale to meet demand.”
The women are paid piece rates for their work and enjoy the company and routine of the Sewing Group.
Adds Tracey: ‘These women get to experience the rewards of regular employment including the company, the pay and the sense of doing something worthwhile. They are lucky to have an amazing sewing teacher in Lorna Greenfield who was the first person to teach fashion at Cairns TAFE. Lorna’s from Papua New Guinea and has a real understanding of the culture of Aurukun. I hope that the partnership with Apunipima will lead to great things and through this, the Aurukun Women’s Sewing Group will win contracts from other agencies and organisations.’
Image: (L-R) Lorna Greenfield,Tracey Ludwick and Nie Sheehan with items produced by the Aurukun Women's Sewing Group.Tracey holds a training doll wrapped in baby rug.
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