Please note: This story contains reference to someone who has died.

Ballardong, Whadjuk, Yued woman and founder of Yok Djakoorliny Incorporated, Jenni Curtis is utilising the art of running to empower women one stride at a time. 

Yok Djakoorliny is a women’s running group with the aim to support both Indigenous
and non-Indigenous women through fitness

Curtis’ story is powerful, she spoke to the National Indigenous Times about her family life and growing up as the youngest of five kids. 

“Most of my working life has been in education. I did dabble a little bit in health,
but mainly I’ve worked in education in the early years and most of my working life,” she said.

“I’m now retired, I cared for my mum for about five or six years, right up until her passing, which was pretty traumatic. Mum had dementia and a lot of other underlying issues that she really didn’t have any control over.”

Sheila Websdale. Photo Supplied.

Curtis’ dad passed away when she was young.

“I was nine years old. And in those nine years, the values that he taught me is how I live my life and how I like to treat other people,” she said.

“My mother did an amazing job and I am the woman that I am today because of her and her input into my life and her strength, her wisdom, her humour, everything. She’s my number one role model in life and she absolutely loved Yok, she loved what it was about. 

“She loved that it was women supporting and loving each other.”

Now, Curtis is a mother of two children and a proud Nana. 

She hopes to pass the values to her children that her parents taught her. 

“I really hope that those values have been passed on to my kids and will be passed on to my grandchildren. And, you know, keeping themselves healthy.”

Curtis spoke to the National Indigenous Times about the establishment of the running group and humbly emphasised that although she is the founder, Yok Djakoorliny is about the women

“I must acknowledge all involved with Yok because without these amazing yorgas, Yok Djakoorliny wouldn’t be what it is today!”

Yok Djakoorliny women. Photo Supplied.

Curtis has an infectious charisma. According to the Yok Djarkoorliny women, in just one meeting, she’ll “talk you into coming along for a walk, next minute you’re running a half marathon”.

“How we work is, we are all about people, we’re not about organisations. We are about reaching out to people and not about ticking boxes,” said Curtis.

“We’re not about numbers or anything like that if we hear of a sister who is needing some assistance in the community and we can help, then we just do it. Yok Djakoorliny work at a grassroots level, that’s where the real need is and where you can really make a difference.

“We are not into making decisions from sitting around a table and I guess that’s the benefits of having an all Aboriginal women’s board and not answerable to funding bodies.”

Read more about Yok Djakoorliny in The National Indigenous Times’ latest Broadsheet edition. 

By Teisha Cloos