AN INNOVATIVE local program that has changed the lives of numerous Aboriginal women is in danger of collapse.
The Dead or Deadly Health and Wellbeing Program run through Waminda, the South Coast Women’s Health and Welfare Aboriginal Corporation,makes Aboriginal women more aware of health issues and personal and family wellbeing.
Funding for the program runs out on June 30. There is no alternative funding source.
Dead and Deadly started five years ago as a 10-week pilot to try to address health issues among Aboriginal women. It has since helped hundreds of women make significant changes to their lives.
Willow Firth, Hayley Longbottom and Angie Lonesborough co-ordinate the program, staging a variety of activities, including fitness classes and information courses.
“The program is not just about fitness. While we have a great gymnasium to undertake a variety of fitness activities, it is a holistic approach to health,” Ms Firth said.
“There is also spiritual, cultural, social and emotional aspects. It’s not just about the physical side of things.
“If we don’t get any additional funding and this program has to stop, it would be a tragedy.
“We have saved the governments thousands of dollars by introducing this program and getting our women healthier."
The program runs Monday to Friday, while there are also extension activities such as aqua aerobics, boot camps and cultural camps.
The program was also set to expand and include tai chi and yoga for elders.
“Education is also a big part of the program,” Ms Longbottom said.
“Those taking part learn about nutrition and healthy eating, that not only helps them but their families as well.”
Full health assessments are also available from Ms Longbottom, who is undertaking her certificate four in Aboriginal Primary Health Care, with participants undergoing blood pressure, diabetes and other medical checks.
“It is a place Aboriginal women can come to, work out in a supporting, fun environment, where it doesn’t matter how big you are or what you look like,” Ms Longbottom said.
“It’s also a safe space.”
The group has a small garden area where they grow their own herbs and vegetables and a couple of the women also work in the gardens with the SOLA program at North Nowra.
Each Monday there is a group cooking experience, where they are introduced to new foods.
“They get to try different foods and hopefully are encouraged to use these healthy foods with their families,” Ms Longbottom said.
“We’ve had a lot of women take part in the course who were pre-diabetic. By learning how to prepare good food and doing some exercise they are no longer under threat.
“It’s not just about the exercise. The women can just come here and talk, catch up.”
Elder, Aunty Mary has been part of the program since its outset.
“I like everything about it,” she said.
“It’s great to be able to come together and share the experience with all the girls. They are a good group, who all have fun together while also working out. “It gets us out of the house.”
Program leads to national exposure
WHEN Angie Lonesborough started the Dead or Deadly program at Waminda last year, little did she know it would lead to her become one of just two Aboriginal personal training scholarship holders in Australia.
Ms Lonesborough is studying the 12-month scholarship through the Australian Institute of Personal Trainers.
Hers is just one success story from the program.
“I’ve lost 30 kilograms and have turned my life around,” she said.
“I’m a new person. A year ago I would never had contemplated being a personal trainer, yet here I am working as part of the Dead or Deadly program doing just that.”
She recently took part in a 10km run in Canberra.
“That’s something I would never have done before,” she said.
“I played A grade women’s soccer for St Georges Basin, but I would struggle.
“Now it’s a lot different, I’m a lot fitter and faster.
“I exercise all the time now. I would never do that before, now I love it.
“I’m just a lot healthier.”
Another success story from the program is Lisa Bloxsome, who is part of the Indigenous Marathon Program, training with legendary Robert de Castella.
Unfortunately, her plans to run in the New York Marathon last year had to be put on hold after she suffered a stress fracture to her hip.
She’s had six months off and is starting to get back into training and is aiming to compete in the Melbourne Marathon in October.
“The support from Dead and Deadly is fantastic,” she said.
“I never dreamed I could run a marathon.
“I’m a lot more confident within myself.”
Ms Bloxsome is also completing a personal trainer course and has gained some employment with the Dead or Deadly Team.