For 16-year-old Angel, being able to connect to land and culture has been hard. When she was just three years old, her mum, a Kokartha and Mirning woman passed away.
Angel, from the Wirangu mob said she hasn’t tried to understand her Aboriginal identity until recently when she joined an organisation aimed at helping Aboriginal youth in Ceduna, South Australia.
“First, I wasn’t really going to [connect] I would have felt it was hard since my Mum’s not around, but since Tanya and Jacinta have been a big help, it’s helped me connect back to my land.”
The organisation, named Ngulyie Goo Nguda meaning 'Our Place' runs social, emotional and wellbeing programs that help connect Aboriginal youth to culture while also assisting with their mental health.
Angel usually struggles with anxiety but since joining their Dreaming Arts and mentorship program she has had no more anxiety attacks.
“It’s gotten better since I’ve been with the mentor program, because I have someone to talk to and it puts me in a happy place – keeps my mind off everything.”
Founders of Ngulyie Goo Nguda, Jacinta Haseldine a Kokatha, Mirning and Wangkangurru woman and her partner Charles, a Mutti Mutti and Yorta Yorta man saw the need for an organisation to help Aboriginal youth in the Ceduna area.
Ms Haseldine said that Indigenous youth can struggle with their mental health due to issues like high levels of youth detention and intergenerational trauma from the stolen generation.
Such issues she said, can cause young people to turn to drinking, drugs or disengaging from school so they wanted to help Aboriginal youth through a "unique and different” organisation.
“I felt the need even when I was working for the Department of Education, I really saw the need for some more social, emotional and well-being programs. It wasn't until November last year, we decided to actually register the company,” Ms Haseldine said.
As a new organisation, Ngulyie Goo Nguda has faced some challenges with the current restrictions due to the coronavirus. Their Cultural Camp which was planned for July, in collaboration with Aboriginal Drug and Alcohol Council (SA) was cancelled.
Dreaming Arts, a creative workshop and Living Waters, a fishing workshop cannot go ahead face-to-face. Although, that hasn’t stopped Ngulyie Goo Nguda’s youth from harnessing the skills they have already learnt from the programs.
Ms Haseldine said a couple of boys are still fishing, while Angel has continued her newly acquired skills canvas painting Aboriginal art at home.
“They gave me a rough idea of it [the basics] because I’m new around this. I’ve been doing some canvas painting at home.”
“It helps me express my feelings. I wasn’t brought up on the Aboriginal side of things, so it helps me connect back to my land,” she said.
The one-on-one mentorship program has been able to continue via phone-calls. It is assisting youth through an anxious time where mob are particularly concerned about Elders as confirmed in a survey Ms Haseldine recently conducted.
“I think with Aboriginal communities, (from the feedback) our young ones really care about our Elders. They're taking the responsibility on and actually are isolating themselves.”
“Aboriginal people, we have multiple complex social issues happening at the same time. So, it's just about providing support for those young people,” she said.
Having a mentor has encouraged Angel to open up to others and for that, she is thankful.
“I feel happy they got me involved in it otherwise, I don’t know where I’d be. Since I’m not an open person I like to keep to myself but, since they’ve got me involved with this, I’m turning out to be an open person,” she said.
In the meantime, waiting for the COVID-19 pandemic to end, the founders have been working with Backpacks 4 SA Kids giving necessities to children in out-of-home care.
Ms Haseldine and her partner are also brainstorming more ideas in the hope that they will secure funding to ensure they can continue to help Aboriginal youth in the Ceduna area.
“What we're after is for the Indigenous advancement strategy funding, it would be great to be able to secure some funding to make these programs more permanent and secure. At the moment, any small grant to be appreciated any donations, but as in long term, it would be good to secure government funding.”
“I would really like to run some more dreaming programs, but now we have to think outside the box and I'll just be doing up some little packs to send home with the kids.”