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The healing power of culture

In 2022, MacKillop Family Services and Geelong-based Aboriginal youth-led organisation, Strong Brother Strong Sister, partnered to pilot a cultural mentoring program to support young Aboriginal children living in out of home care, and those attending The MacKillop School at Whittington.

The three-year mentoring pilot has been generously funded by the Anthony Costa Foundation.

The program is connecting up to 50 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and young people to access Strong Brother Strong Sister’s youth group activities, school holiday programs, 1:1 tailored mentoring and cultural support.

It aims to address the increasing rates of young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in care by supporting them to connect to culture and community and to strengthen pride in their identity. This work creates a strong sense of belonging, which we know builds a firm foundation for Indigenous children and youth to live healthy, prosperous lives.

Strong Brother Strong Sister founder and managing director Cormach Evans said the partnership was the first of its kind and represented opportunity for real change for Barwon’s Aboriginal young people in out of home care, ensuring each had cultural connections, support and investment through First Nations mentors and sector professionals.

The program is delivered through a trauma lens that acknowledges the unique experience of intergenerational trauma caused by the stolen generation, and the many young people we work with who inherited it. It also recognises the healing power of culture.

In acknowledging both MacKillop and the organisation’s National Director for Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Service Development, Esmai Manahan, Cormach said: “None of this would be possible without an excellent working relationship and trust and we acknowledge and pay respects to Aunty Esmai for her support, advocacy and determination to ensure this partnership is the best of its kind.”

Program participant Nick* said: “Culture to Aboriginal young people is integral to our wellbeing. It provides connection, strength, identity, healing, and learning.”

*Name changed to protect privacy