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Miyalk Kitchen provides Galiwin'ku women with employment opportunities in Arnhem Land

Brendan Foster -

Rita Gurruwiwi has big dreams for the women of her community in Galiwin'ku (East Arhem Land).

The proud Yolngu Miyalk woman is one of 20 First Nations women being mentored through the Miyalk Kitchen – a commercial enterprise set up by the Arnhem Land Progress Aboriginal Corporation (ALPA) as part of trials being run under the Australian Government's Community Development Program (CDP) reforms.

Located on the southern end of Elcho Island approximately 550 kilometres northeast of Darwin, Ms Gurruwiwi one day hopes the Miyalk Kitchen could include an outdoor area for customers to dine in and new uniforms for staff.

She also has dreams of taking the program to other communities so they too can benefit from the opportunity.

"We want to bring more women here. When you work you feel better, you have money and can provide for your family," Ms Gurruwiwi said.

"Work is good. It's good for young people too, we're showing a pathway for our children."

ALPA set up the Miyalk Kitchen to give First Nations women the opportunity to build their skills and confidence through employment and provide long-term jobs, which gives the women financial independence and creates intergenerational change.

The Miyalk Kitchen is also designed to grow local industry and enterprise while providing meals for contractors visiting the island and providing low-cost meals for the community.

Pathways manager, Cheryllee Hodgson said there was a real sense of pride and ownership amongst the women.

"The ladies have ownership of this program and they hold themselves accountable," she said.

"They know it's theirs and they work together as a team, working in pairs so that everyone is supported in their learning.

"These women are strong in Yolngu culture and these jobs are supporting them to be strong in the Western way by working, building and being part of a business.

"We wouldn't be able to do it without them, but there was a need to eliminate barriers to employment such as transport for the ladies and modes of teaching."

ALPA deputy chairman, Micky Wunungmurra said anyone can be part of the Miyalk Kitchen story.

"ALPA helps bring the Balanda world and Yolngu world together, in a way that supports self-determination and builds pride and strength for Yolngu people," he said.

So far, 18 women have received paid work through the Miyalk Kitchen while another 21 have received some form of benefit, including hospitality training and assistance with transport and health issues.

The Miyalk Kitchen project is a Community Development Program (CDP) Pathways to Real Jobs initiative.

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