The Young Women’s Room in Ntaria strives to educate, upskill, and empower the young women every day by providing a safe space on the school grounds for Western Arrernte girls and women. The room is open Monday to Friday 8am-4pm to provide a space where girls and women don’t feel shame, can relax, feel comfortable to express themselves, and have access to hygiene facilities and products, educational workshops, food, activities, and support. Through this space, and with female Western Arrernte employees by our sides, Tash and I strive to champion these women and girls to be confident, capable, and realise the power their voices and actions can have in their community and in their lives. So, to further celebrate and connect all the women and girls, last week we hosted some International Women’s Day events which were a great success!

Tash (Ntaria RSAS Manager) has a background as a Personal Trainer which she has been utilising to offer evening fitness classes to the women utilising Congress’ gym space at Lukura, a women’s only space in the community. From boxing to circuits, the aim has been to provide a safe space for women to come together to get their heart rates up and learn some new skills, while finding enjoyment in exercise. Tash and I have been hoping to make these sessions consistent and then expand them to full women’s evenings that will include exercise, healthy cook ups and nutrition education, and then yarns with the women, and hopefully some Congress staff, on health and wellness topics that affect these women. Unfortunately, there has been ongoing men’s business since November which has limited female movements around the community, particularly in the afternoons/evenings, so many women have not been able to attend these sessions. But with men’s business taking place out of community for now, we wanted to spread the word, incentivise these women to come along, and get the ball rolling – much to the delight of some ladies who have been counting down to the next class they could attend! And so, on Tuesday, our first cook up was on! While Tash ran a brilliant partner boxing session, Ellie prepared chicken fajitas and beef burritos for the ladies’ post workout feed. We had an amazing turn out of 13 local women and seven female stakeholders (from Congress, Ntaria School, Ntaria FaFT (Families as First Teachers), Hermannsburg Potters, and Tjuwanpa Women’s Rangers) who smashed their work out and loved their healthy dinner afterwards. We all sat around chatting, getting excited for next week’s class. Tash and I hope to continue to grow these sessions, get more women along, work with Congress to expand the exercise space and equipment selection (thanks to the new Congress Manager, Christine, who is already a huge supporter), and provide healthy cook ups and a safe opportunity for yarning every month. This space has huge potential to bring women together, and we hope to continue to be an organisation in Ntaria that utilises it in a way that the local women want and enjoy!

To then celebrate International Women’s Day on Wednesday 8th March, I had planned to take the girls and our local staff from the Young Women’s Room down to Palm Valley to hang out for the afternoon, where we could chat, fish, play, cook, paint, and enjoy being on country together. In the hopes of celebrating and connecting more women and girls, and simply creating an afternoon of enjoyment, I figured the more the merrier, and extended the invite to women and stakeholders from the community. With women from Ntaria School, Ntaria FaFT, Hermannsburg Potters, Congress, Tjuwanpa Women’s Rangers, and other local women, we had a brilliant turn out of 36 women and girls! It was a lovely afternoon in a cool 32 degrees, having yarns, painting, making bracelets, braiding hair, playing in the sand, fishing, and getting to know everyone a little better. Shout out to our superstar Young Women’s Room employee, Evelyn, who coordinated most of the cook up, cooking roo tail and potatoes for everyone! The afternoon ended up in a bit of excitement, with a rescue mission to recover a bogged Congress car – a true demonstration of strong women working together!

Tash and I, with the vital support and efforts of our Western Arrernte staff (shout out to Evelyn, Kath, Valerie, Michelle, and Eleanor) and other community stakeholders, hope to continue to provide opportunities like these to celebrate the strong women and girls of Ntaria, help them to become even stronger in whichever capacity they desire, encourage intergenerational support, closeness, and transfer of knowledge, and open up avenues for important conversations.

Here’s to strong women. May we know them. May we be them. May we raise them.

Written by Ellie Simmons, Director Ntaria SCFC.