An Aboriginal women’s program is calling on locals of NSW’s Northern Rivers region to support a funding application to start a cultural arts hub and social enterprise.

Our Happy Women, a program through women’s organisation YWCA Australia, has applied for funding through the NSW Government’s My Community Project and wants to use the money to further the training of Aboriginal women and transform their lives both economically and socially.

Community members are invited to vote on what they think is the most worthy project.

YWCA’s Regional Manager for northern NSW Louise Collins said there are numerous reasons why the public should get behind Our Happy Women and its big plans for the future.

“Our Happy Women is an empowerment program, it’s very inclusive. Women come together and they start off with a yarning circle and they proceed to engage in arts-based skills. They’re engaging at the moment in some entrepreneurial skills,” Ms Collins said.

Since being founded in 2015 as a solution to the lack of culturally appropriate support services for Aboriginal women, Our Happy Women has made a significant contribution to community.

The group has participated in art exhibitions, fashion shows, fabric creation and garment making, running yarning circles for external organisations and working with early childhood services around culture and stories.

“[Now] the women are wanting to focus on a social enterprise … they’re wanting to use what they’ve focused on for the last two years which is all based around printing, garment making, tie dying and natural based dyes and fabrics,” Ms Collins said.

Ms Collins said this funding would provide a pathway to decision-making and self-determination for the members of Our Happy Women.

“The funding will allow the group to engage with an entrepreneurial mentor who will provide them with that type of training … and also to work with an artist who will support them with design and fabric prints,” Ms Collins said.

“This will give them all the skills that they need – entrepreneurial skills, business skills, marketing skills – as well as the technical skills in producing high quality fabrics for sale.”

Ms Collins said the funding will support the purchase of basic equipment such as long tables for garment fabrics as well.

Aunty Mim Bolt has headed Our Happy Women since 2017 and said funding like this could create meaningful social change for the local Indigenous community.

“This funding application is community-driven,” Aunty Mim said.

“The women who make up Our Happy Women are the ones who told us that they wanted to use their skills and talents in printmaking and design to establish a social enterprise that has meaningful social impact.”

Aunty Mim also said Aboriginal women face certain challenges in accessing networks, financial capital and training essential to social and economic transformation.

“Our aim is to provide Aboriginal women in Northern NSW with meaningful opportunities for employment and training, to support greater economic security and increased decision-making and leadership,” Aunty Mim said.

“The wonderful thing about this funding opportunity is that it could just be the start of something so much bigger.”

Voting for Our Happy Women’s cultural hub is open until August 15 at https://mycommunityproject.service.nsw.gov.au/.

By Hannah Cross