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First Nations-led collective Ember Connect empowering Indigenous women through digital mentoring program

Brendan Foster -

A First Nations-led collective is delivering economic empowerment for Indigenous women through a nationwide, digital online mentoring program.

Perth-based company Ember Connect developed the mentoring initiative after receiving a Social Enterprise Grant from Indigenous Business Australia (IBA).

One of the main aims of the program is to increase the employment, social, and economic benefits for First Nations women, no matter how remote the participants may be.

So far, 46 women from around Australia have been matched with a mentor, based on their life experience, employment, education, industry and skill sets and even their future aspirations.

Arrernte woman, Jacqueline Elwell, said she saw the post about the mentorship program after becoming an Ember Connect member six months ago.

She was soon matched with mentor Julie Gibson, who joined the program because she had a passion for women in business.

"Having Julie as a mentor to provide a safe space to discuss aspirations, give guidance towards meeting goals and keep me accountable has been a great addition to my life," Ms Elwell said.

"Being a successful Indigenous woman comes with many different hats to wear. We walk in two worlds and having a mentor program that understands and supports us in meeting those challenges has resulted in a platform and community that is fundamentally like no other.

"I would highly recommend the mentoring program to all Indigenous women."

Ms Gibson said Jacqueline was an incredibly inspiring woman.

"It's a privilege to be able to talk through it all with her and help her prioritise and stay on track with her bigger vision," she said.

"It also gives me greater insight into the challenges that First Nations women encounter.

"As a non-Indigenous woman, I believe it's crucial to work with our First Nations sisters as part of a larger reconciliation journey that our country desperately needs.

"It's important to me to try to help break down some of the barriers that First Nations women may experience and because of this it was an easy decision to become involved."

Ember Connect general manager, Narelle Henry, said the grant from IBA enabled the not-for-profit organisation to roll out an innovative approach to mentorship for First Nations women.

"Ember Connect launched with the goal of providing a unique meeting place where First Nations women can use their voices and influence to help other First Nations women to thrive," she said.

"It is a powerful springboard for Indigenous women to elevate and achieve their goals."

Ms Henry said when Ember Connect was launched in early 2022, 70 per cent of the women surveyed stated they would want to be part of a mentoring program.

"We're very excited about the potential our online mentoring program has, the model gives us the capacity to scale up numbers so that we can impact hundreds of women each year," said Ms Henry.

IBA director of community and customer experience, Stella de Cos, said the partnership with Ember Connect would drive positive change for First Nations women.

"Supporting Ember Connect to achieve this milestone and expand their reach with the online platform, will empower so many of our First Nations women with access to resources and other like-minded women with whom they can connect, share their strengths and build on the opportunities," she said.

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