Yarning circle builds capacity in Aboriginal people with disability

Noongar elder, and APM Communities team member, Cheryl Taylor joins a weekly yarning circle involving Aboriginal people with disability at Armadale’s Champion Centre.

The activity runs every Wednesday and participants enjoy a combination of culture, activities, and social interaction. Cheryl discusses the benefits of the group in this Q & A session:

What is a yarning circle and how does this activity relate to the group?

Cheryl: A yarning circle is a space where Aboriginal people come along to share ideas and thoughts.

Ours is open for any discussion individuals with an NDIS plan choose to share with us. It could be sharing stories, or it could be writing stories. They might be interested in doing some language.

Every week we ask what activity they would be interested in doing the following week. Sometimes they are not sure, so we suggest some ideas, but language, art and singing are the three main activities.

How did you become involved in the weekly yarning circle?

My involvement began when I thought it would be a good opportunity to meet with this yarning circle and see if they would be interested in developing a peer support group.

Most of them have been with the NDIS for some time and are quite experienced in understanding their own needs in the community.

What activities do group members take part in?

We have different activities for them, and we bring in different services to speak to them. They could be financial services, counselling services or exercise services.

We have a young girl who loves singing and she often participates in singing with the group and we have art as well.

How does the group run?

It is very interactive for the group members and they come with support workers.

We expect workers to interact with their participant and assist them on the day and encourage them to engage.

As we know, with some people we are working with, that sometimes they come along and are feeling on top of the world and other days they are not feeling well.

We make sure that support workers are well aware of these varying emotions.

Have you seen a positive change in the yarning circle participants capacity?

I have noticed a change in the level of confidence for each one of those people in the group. They are more willing to speak.

There is a young gentleman in there today who very rarely used to say anything but now we can ask him a question and he will respond.

They are all at varying levels, all different age groups, all different experiences, and I have seen the development and the capacity of each one of those people change dramatically.

Are they becoming more involved in their Aboriginal culture?

I think we have made space where they can freely talk about who are they are and if that is about their families, if that is about their language and if that is about their experiences we feel this is the space for that.

We are just providing a cultural space where each one of those Aboriginal participants can feel safe to talk about their business.

Will your involvement evolve with this group?

I believe it will and it is important that there is some Aboriginal eldership in the group. Each one of those people know me and so they have confidence and respect for me. Part of that is learning how we as Aboriginal people respect our elders.

Also, we have another elders group meeting at the centre as well. They come into our group on request. If there is anything they want to know historically we have elders who can come in and talk to them.

Could a person with disability proceed into eldership?

Absolutely, if that is what they feel they have the confidence to do and I would certainly encourage that.

One of the gentlemen in the group could go in that direction. He is a very good leader in the group. He is an older person in the group so he has good qualities in terms of keeping the group together.

I refer to him with that role when there is a need to refer to an elder male. People are learning and accept that.

As part of the NDIS Partners in the Community program, APM Communities help people with disability in several regions in Western Australia, Queensland and the Northern Territory to access support.

Our Local Area Coordinators (LACs) help people with disability, National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) participants, families and carers to identify and access the support they need.