This project evaluated Gunawirra’s Young Aboriginal Mothers’ Program, a set of community-led peer support groups that aim to improve the health and educational outcomes of preschool Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children by providing healing through culture and art and access to therapy and health specialists for mothers and children.

The evaluation sought to understand mothers' experiences of the program, its impact on their daily lives, and the program's effectiveness in redressing the cycle of intergenerational trauma. Co-designed with Gunawirra, a combination of Indigenous and Western qualitative methodologies were employed to build culturally safe relationships with the women and to centre their voices and experiences of the program. Mothers described Gunawirra as a supportive, flexible and inclusive service which provided individualised care for their children, and increased their social connection, self-esteem, and bonding with their children within a safe environment. The cultural activities were identified as a highlight of the program as they enabled the mothers and their children to increase their knowledge of, connection to and pride in culture. Many of the women also described Gunawirra as a family, in which they felt they received holistic support from highly skilled, flexible, and culturally connected staff. Recommendations the mothers made for the program's future operation include extending the program beyond school years for the older siblings of children currently in the program and increasing career development opportunities and job-related skills development for the mothers.


Healing in culture: Evaluation of Gunawirra's Young Aboriginal Mothers' Program

Media items

SESU funding for seven community research projects



Project team
  • Mr Graham Toomey - Chief Executive Officer, Gunawirra
  • Ms Katrina Ikonomou - Program Coordinator, Gunawirra
  • Dr Renata Cinelli - School of Education, ACU
  • Ms Kate Robinson - School of Nursing, Midwifery and Paramedicine, ACU
  • Dr Georgia Durmush, Institute for Positive Psychology & Education, ACU
  • Dr Jill Cox, ACU Engagement
  • Ms Vivien Cinque, ACU Engagement

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