March 2017

90 APAC / March 2017 , 1701AP38 Education, Education, Education Karyn Lisignoli talks to us about the core values which underpin the services that Nyoongar Wellbeing & Sports provides. Nyoongar Wellbeing & Sports (NWS) is an Aboriginal Corporation and registered health promotion charity working to build health and wellbeing in the Aboriginal community residing in Nyoongar country. This is an area of over 300,000 square kilometres, covering Perth and surrounding regions, which is home to half of the West Australian Aboriginal population. The majority of NWS’s programs target children and young people, although it also provides services for adults. Approximately 80% of its participants are Aboriginal. Karyn Lisignoli tells us a little more about the charity and the services it offers to the community. “NWS provides a variety of different programs in both school and community settings,” she begins. “These programs nearly all involve physical activity, whilst most also include personal and cultural development activities and are designed to build physical and emotional health and wellbeing, as well as a sense of personal responsibility and empowerment. All our programs are delivered in partnership with others and also work to improve educational outcomes; improve behaviour; and build resilience and drive in the community. “To illustrate, our schools program, the Young Achievers Club, works intensively in six primary schools, where we deliver a variety of sessions from three to five times per week at each school, including a homework club in one location. It has shown outstanding results in improving school attendance, behaviour, academic achievement, as well as building cultural pride, confidence and self-esteem. “In our community programs area, feedback from both participants and agencies indicate we are achieving positive outcomes such as increased social skills and inclusion, improved health and wellbeing, and a decrease in anti-social behaviour.” NWS is a civic sector organisation, or not-for-profit, which presents its own unique challenges as its largest trading partner is government and its competitors are not just other Aboriginal charities, but essentially every charity/NFP in Australia. “A major focus for us is diversifying our funding sources; increasing our profile in the corporate sector in order to attract sponsorships and financial partnerships; and continuing to develop new programs in partnership with new stakeholders to address more social issues and concerns, such as building mental health to address the despair and suicide within the Aboriginal community. “We have a very strong and evidence-based operational model, which always aims to build physical health within a culturally appropriate framework, whilst also addressing other issues such as school attendance, incarceration rates, and violence and so on. The health statistics for the Australian Aboriginals is so dire in comparison to other populations that it the single most important issue to address. Health is the fundamental foundation for wellbeing and success in all areas of life.” The organisation is extremely values-based and its approach to developing its programs and services is a combination of research and evidence, coupled with experience and community feedback. “It is vitally important in any social change area, that the target group is actively involved in driving the changes they want and need in order to succeed,” explains Karyn. “This however, needs to be developed within frameworks from research that reveals which interventions and changes actually make an impact. Sadly within the community sector many programs are counter-intuitive in that what often seems to not likely to work, actually has the biggest impact.” In dealing with a cultural group, such as Aboriginal Australians it is even more important that the group knowledge, culture and customs play a strong role in program delivery. Karyn states that the wisdom of the community needs to be a strong driver in developing and delivering programs, which is why the firm is an Aboriginal Corporation, with 80% Aboriginal staff. By her own admittance, Karyn is naturally a very motivated and optimistic person. This, coupled with her physical, mental and spiritual health, are the key attributes to keeping her motivated for success. “I am a strong and passionate believer that life is an ongoing journey of growth and development and that our role is to give back – to utilise our strengths and resources for the benefit of all. A favourite quote that reflects my life belief is …. “You are not here merely to make a living. You are here in order to enable the world to live more amply, with greater vision, with finer spirit of hope and achievement. You are here to enrich the world and you impoverish yourself if you forget that errand” - Woodrow Wilson” The single most important tool to address poverty, despair and disadvantage is education and employment – this is consistent all over the world. Karyn tells us what she foresees moving forward for the organisation. “We have achieved such extraordinary success in our Schools program we have applied to double our funding to deliver this in an additional six schools. The cost for this program equates to about $2,000 per Aboriginal student annually, whilst the cost of incarcerating a child costs in excess of $200,000 per year, so not only is it achieving extraordinary success it is extremely cost-effective. “There is actually no limit to the number of schools we could work in, so we expect to continue expanding this with additional government funding and then philanthropic and corporate funding as well.”