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We Care runs women's Sista Circle program, focus on mental health

Eleven female participants of We Care's Sista Circle program standing outdoors by the river smiling

• The Sista Circle program kicks off for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women in the Hunter region
• Three-day group designed by Aboriginal peoples to promote positive mental health and wellbeing
• nib foundation and We Care work together to deliver better health initiatives

Aboriginal owned not-for-profit, We Care NSW (We Care), will host the Sista Circle program this week, offering their female Aboriginal participants and staff members across the Hunter Region the opportunity to participate in the three-day program.

The program, with support from the nib foundation, has been designed collaboratively with the Wonnarua (Maitland), Awabakal (Newcastle) and Worimi (Port Stephens) community members, to provide an opportunity for Aboriginal women to connect with one another and their culture. It is designed to deliver culturally appropriate mental health and wellness programs for Hunter Valley women.

The Sista Circle will be led by Aboriginal healer, Kellie Forrest, and follows the We Care Yarn Up Connecting Countries programs delivered in partnership with nib foundation to Aboriginal youth and men last year.

We Care Director and Clinical Psychologist, Todd Heard, said they are a culturally and clinically integrated response to the mental health issues he has witnessed in his community. “In Australia, deaths by suicide represent a leading cause of preventable death for Aboriginal peoples. First Nations peoples are also twice as likely to die by suicide than non-Indigenous Australians.”

nib foundation Executive Officer, Amy Tribe, said that following the success of the eight Yarn Up Connecting Countries programs last year, nib foundation was eager to fund The Sista Circle in 2023.

nib foundation, established in 2008, has provided $24.9 million in funding to 191 charitable organisations that help people and communities live healthier lives.

This includes nib’s Aboriginal Health Partnership program, which support community-led organisations looking to deliver strengths-based and culturally safe initiatives with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.

“There are great benefits in bringing people together in this way,” Ms Tribe said. “As a health company, we are very aware of the importance of good social and emotional wellbeing, and in collaboration with First Nations peoples, we are very happy to support their work delivering benefits to their communities.”

Each group is held over three days and includes activities that promote a sense of connection to self, community, culture and Country.

The original Yarn Up Connecting Countries program targeted Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander men aged between 18-35. The program expanded to Aboriginal youth aged between 13-18, and now to Aboriginal women, addressing specific recommendations from local community consultation.

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