JOINING FORCES: Juanita Halden with auntie Mena Sebastian-Stemm in Airlie Beach on Tuesday.
JOINING FORCES: Juanita Halden with auntie Mena Sebastian-Stemm in Airlie Beach on Tuesday. PETER CARRUTHERS

Tully and the Whitsundays to engage in cultural exchange

A KIMBERLY Aboriginal woman and stolen generation survivor now living in Mission Beach has joined forces with a local indigenous advocate with a view to creating positive change for young first nation peoples.

Mena Sebastian-Stemm was taken from her Kimberly home when she was 11-months-old in 1961, she was then raised at Beagle Bay Catholic Mission in Western Australia.

Experiencing a forced removal and more recently fighting for the return of her grand children taken by Queensland Child Protection, the elder and community leader is looking to facilitate a cultural exchange between the Tully and Whitsunday regions.

"I am glad I had those experiences because I walk in that every day with a positive light,” she said.

"If there are others out there struggling out there I want to be able to help them.”

She met with Our Way Liaison Services CEO Juanita Halden and other interested stakeholders for an informal discussion on how to fund indigenous family-friendly gatherings, business development programs, mentorship, cultural exchanges, family empowerment and arts programs for indigenous people.

"Once we realise how important we are as a culture, as a people, this is when those barriers get knocked down,” Ms Sebastian-Stemm said.

"We are wanting to do something and deliver something with this knowledge.”

The vision for the project not only plans to bring indigenous communities together but also will involve staff of Queensland State Government departments.

"We feel, we will use Queensland Child Protection Services as an example, they are operating in a community but they don't attend community events or they are not a part of the community fabric,” Ms Halden said.

"We have witnessed that they may come for a one-off visit but they don't genuinely open their hearts and we find that through culture and events and gatherings, art, food and dance we can share and cultivate a cultural exchange,” Ms Halden said.

"We want to them to engage with us a develop an on-going relationship.”

Ms Halden and Ms Sebastian-Stemm are looking to unlock State Government funding and met today to seek guidance on how to apply for grants and department subsidies.

Auntie Mena is from the Malanburra Midja Cultural Women's Group in Tully who provide a wide range of products and services including women's, aged-care groups and women's church groups.


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