The Graham (Polly) Farmer Foundation has always been committed to supporting Indigenous youth in succeeding in their education and life through holistic programs and workshops. A key player in the Foundation is Wellbeing Program Manager, Talicia Jetta.

Raised in Bunbury, WA, Jetta is a Noongar woman from the Ballardong tribe. With a strong health background, Jetta is essential to the Foundation’s ability to support young Aboriginal students.

She works with the Foundation’s Follow the Dream students and has been instrumental in organising the 2019 and 2020 Youth Conference: Djerabiny Djin-Djin Koolangkas (Happy Good Spirit Youth).

“Essentially my role is to address and look at how we can support our young fullas when it comes to their health and wellbeing,” Jetta said.

“Initially I was getting around [to schools] sitting with students having a yarn and seeing where they were at, how they were going, what their journey was like.

“It was a safe space where they had another Aboriginal person that wasn’t in education, with a health background that they could talk to and voice any concerns. It didn’t have to be related to school, it could be to do with family, or at home.”

Through sitting and yarning, Jetta identified recurring concerns for the students.

“From that … a need [was] recognised, where the same issues were coming up in terms of their social and emotional mental health. Part of my role now is after that yarning, I provide that avenue to refer to specialist services that are culturally appropriate to provide that support for our young fullas.”

In addition to referrals, Jetta created workshops that addressed common concerns.

“From that we looked at it and said, ‘Okay, instead of being reactive all the time, how can we be a part of the solution and do more of the health prevention?’,” she said.

“From the regular issues that were coming up, I designed some workshops that addressed these issues to give these students tools and resources, and ways to address their own health mentally and physically,” she said.

“We provide a feed and they get to talk about things like respectful relationships, coping with stress, responding to racism, those life skills they can take with them when navigating through their life.”

The programs are culturally informed, and aim to help students find strength in their cultural identities.

“In the workshops we focus on how culture, being on Country and being spiritually connected to your mob and where you’re from can affect your health. The activities we do in the workshops get the students to brainstorm how culture [can] help them get through certain times in their life,” Jetta said.

“We look at the westernised medical model and then also the traditional way we would heal. We join them together. A big part of it is if they can recognise how strong their culture is and be proud of it, how can that then move them forward as well.”

As the COVID-19 pandemic has heavily affected people’s mental health, Jetta ensured she adapted her processes to provide continued and reliable support for students.

“With the lovely help of technology, we were able to set up a WebEx and Zoom so through those programs we were able to provide tutoring and times for me to be online,” she said.

“They could come in as a group or one-on-one sessions, and I could speak to them through that video conferencing and also through the phone.

“We had a yarn with families and with whoever their caregiver was … we got permission, so they were able to call me to keep in contact and put things in place.

“We gave them a lot of things to do like mindfulness, just things they could do by themselves at home that would keep them going.”

Wellbeing Program Manager and Noongar woman, Talicia Jetta. Photo supplied by the Polly Farmer Foundation.

Moving into a position in an educational organisation, Jetta found the space to succeed, adding a different perspective to the Foundation.

“The discussions have been really good, I give a lot of input around health and [how] having a good mental state can affect education. And having a really good education can also make you feel better and make you feel more confident as well,” she said.

“We can provide support to our young fullas now so they’re not just leaving school with an education, they’re also leaving with a healthy and positive mindset.”

Bringing a valuable perspective to the Graham (Polly) Farmer Foundation, Jetta continues to support and empower youth to take pride in and take care of themselves.

“I want to be part of the change and support people to know they are not by themselves. We all have a journey and if we can come together, we can look after each other—that is what drives me.”

By Rachael Knowles