Vol. One / Issue Five:
Guntawang Aboriginal Resources Incorporated (GARI)
Commencing as Guntawang Aboriginal Women’s Group in 2013, Guntawang Aboriginal Resources Incorporated (GARI) is a not-for-profit group which has grown from three Aboriginal women to a membership of 11 regular attendees from the Aboriginal community in the Liverpool and Fairfield Local Government Areas. GARI was established due to the need for a group that supported women in building resilience, self-esteem, relationships and cultural connection. This program is entirely self-sufficient in its funding, and offers culturally unique and specialised support outside the scope of what existing mainstream programs can offer. GARI participates in mainstream community activities such as Harmony Day, and also provides referrals to services within the Liverpool and Fairfield area. In addition, GARI holds stalls during NAIDOC Week; the art that is sold replenishes their resources for the group to be able to purchase more equipment and materials for their workshops.
[Resilience is] the ability to have a connection and belonging to one’s land, family and culture, therefore an identity. Allowing pain and suffering caused from adversities to heal. Having a dreaming, where the past is brought to the present and the present and the past are taken into the future. A strong spirit that confronts and conquers racism and oppression, strengthening the spirit. The ability not just to survive but to thrive in today’s dominant culture. – Aboriginal scholar and educator, Marion Kickett (2011, as cited in Usher et al., 2021)
GARI builds the resilience of each of its attendees by connecting them with culture, community, Country and history through its workshops, cultural activities, community events, and more. GARI provides lunches, morning teas and afternoon teas to members, who all volunteer their time to contribute to workshops and other activities. By providing a place of enjoyment, belonging and respite, GARI is able to build the self-esteem and creativity of its participants, which in turn builds stronger communities and strengthens social cohesion.
GARI also contributes to the nurturing of cultural identity by giving members opportunities to participate in cultural activities, which allow people to connect through shared knowledge and experience. This program also shares this knowledge with those who want to learn, such as running basket-weaving workshops for migrant women in Fairfield. In doing so, they build relationships with non-Aboriginal people while also strengthening their collective and personal cultural identity through participating in their own cultural practices.
Apart from the arts and craft side of this program, GARI also have a culture and heritage side which finances part of the organisation. Some examples include working with contractors on site visits and identifying Aboriginal artefacts that need to be preserved. But GARI is much more than this, and the collective pride and strength shown by the group is inspiring.
Evidence in practice
Indigenous resilience is understood to extend beyond the dominant Western interpretation of resilience. Factors that increase resilience in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander individuals and communities are more firmly rooted in the support and connection to each other and to their culture and heritage. These factors include connection to land, family/kin, and culture, as well as knowledge and participation in traditional activities and cultural gatherings. Recognition, respect, safety, and belonging are also vital, as well as pride in cultural identity and building self-esteem (Usher et al., 2021).
The concept of cultural identity explains that the collective identity of a group is fundamental for forming the personal identity of an individual. For Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, the connection to a shared history, knowledge, language, and so on is crucial to strengthening their individual identity and building collective resilience (Taylor & Usborne, 2010).
Taylor, D.M., Usborne, E. (2010). When I Know Who “We” Are, I Can Be “Me”: The Primary Role of Cultural Identity Clarity for Psychological Well-Being. Transcultural Psychiatry Vol 47(1): 93–111. Available here.
Usher, K., Jackson, D., Walker, R., Durkin, J., Smallwood, R., Robinson, M., Sampson, Uncle Neville, Adams, I., Porter, C., Marriott, R. (2021). Indigenous Resilience in Australia: A Scoping Review Using a Reflective Decolonizing Collective Dialogue.
Frontiers in Public Health. Available here.