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Gippsland and East Gippsland Aboriginal Cooperative (GEGAC)’s project Strong Alone, Stronger Together is about cultural connection and representation. They are providing social and emotional support through engagement activities.

Jamie Williamson, CEO of GEGAC says:

“It is counselling through activity, that is the best way to explain it.”

Physical health and wellbeing programs have been designed to help people engage in conversations about the trauma associated with bushfires. The programs have been designed for youth and different genders.

Jamie explains:

“We have three streams: music, art and physical activity. We ran a men’s workshop. It was an ad-hoc jam session as a part of our music therapy. Meaningful conversations were had around identity.

“One of the biggest questions we’ve heard being asked was ‘Who are we as Aboriginal men living in East Gippsland after we’ve been through all of this, 'who are we?'”

This led to the creation of another program Past, Present and Future. Jamie says:

“The Elders will represent the past. They will build on the conversation around identity, which helps address the trauma from bushfires. Based on that, we will go into the present. Then we will bring in the youth, the future.”

The next steps for GEGAC will be to bring Elders into a place they feel comfortable where they can tell their stories. The aim is to develop a joint understanding of identity to share with the next generation.

Jamie says they plan to revisit these groups as they grow into the next generation.

“Cultural identity and responsibility are being defined again. It was lost.”

GEGAC plan to run community bushfire management and prevention activities in the lead up to the bushfire season. Jamie hopes this will increase the community’s resilience, address wellbeing concerns and continue to support their healing.

Jamie says GEGAC appreciates the funds which have allowed them to address the concerns of the community.

Reviewed 25 August 2021

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