Taking down the barriers

Powerful stories about overcoming racial discrimination and other barriers to achieve fulfilling lives were told at the Warrnambool launch of the “Deadly Yakka” indigenous employment program on Monday.

The launch began with an address by Gunditjmara elder Rob Lowe senior who explained the significance of a smoking ceremony, a symbolic cleansing ritual, that was later conducted in a laneway near the Lava Street offices of the Matchworks employment services business.

Strengthening: Brett Clarke performs at the Warrnambool launch of the "Deadly Yakka" indigenous employment program.  Pictures: Morgan Hancock

Strengthening: Brett Clarke performs at the Warrnambool launch of the "Deadly Yakka" indigenous employment program. Pictures: Morgan Hancock

Mr Lowe spoke about how the northern side of Lava Street was part of the the boundary for where Aborigines were allowed to go in Warrnambool’s central business district when he was a youth growing up on the Framlingham aboriginal mission.

Mr Lowe went on to captain a Victorian aboriginal AFL team and presently talks with a wide variety of local community groups about aboriginal culture and history.

Another to speak at the launch of the “Deadly Yakka” program was Aboriginal dancer Brett Clarke who spoke about how he left school in Year 10 after disputing the version of Australian history that did not acknowledge Aboriginal heritage.

Deadly Yakka program graduate Shannon Turner also spoke of how the program had turned his life around from being a drug abuser to becoming a male support worker with the Closing the Gap program at the Gunditjmara Aboriginal Cooperative.

They (the Deadly Yakka program) taught me not to give up on myself.

Shannon Turner

Mr Turner, who joined the Deadly Yakka program in Melbourne more than four years ago, said the program workers had given him a lot of support and helped him gain a positive mindset.

While he had been dealing with a lot of loss and grief at the time, he had realised it was up him to deal with it, he said.

Liberating: Shannon Turner, Brett Clarke and Rob Lowe snr at the smoking ceremony held in part of Warrnambool's CBD that has an inglorious history.

Liberating: Shannon Turner, Brett Clarke and Rob Lowe snr at the smoking ceremony held in part of Warrnambool's CBD that has an inglorious history.

“They (the Deadly Yakka program) taught me not to give up on myself,” Mr Turner said.

Deadly Yakka indigenous employment officer Irene Sazdow said she mentored program participants throughout the two-week program and afterwards until they found employment.

The program has been implemented in several other locations throughout Australia and begins in Warrnambool on Tuesday at the Matchworks employment services business.