GEGAC’s new Aboriginal Best Start Facilitator, Mingara Wandin. Photo: Jake Lynch/GEGAC
Sometimes, there’s no substitute for lived experience.
Particularly when it comes to the day-to-day lives of Aboriginal kids and families in our community, and the unique challenges they face, sometimes you can only understand it if you’ve been through it.
It is fair to say that Mingara Wandin has faced some challenges in her young life so far.
With both parents passing away by the time she was 12, Mingara was left to fend for herself and her older brother.
“Right from when I was real young I had to look after myself,” she says. “I was my own guardian by the age of 12. My childhood was just a lot of bouncing around. I went to four different high schools, and lived with multiple people before turning 18”.
Those early experiences, of being a young kid that didn’t have a safe and stable home, and that needed the help of others in order to survive, shaped Mingara forever.
“I always said to myself that when I grow up, I want to help the vulnerable ones and the ones that don’t ask for help but need a little support.”
Mingara remembers a few women who played a pivotal role in her early life, and watching them in their careers and the way they helped people with kind hearts and passion.
“After that I decided I wanted to be a youth worker, so I could help those kids that needed help.”
Given her difficult start in life, it’s no surprise that Mingara went through her own troubled periods as a teenager and young woman.
But now, as the matriarch of her own young family, Mingara seems to have found just where she needs to be.
Mingara says that her mother was her idol, and someone that she always inspired to be, and more.
She is now a mother herself, of four beautiful daughters, and wants the best life for her kids.
Having a great education and great home life is something that is very important to her, so her daughters can grow up and be inspired to help others and make a change.
After a few years of working in various roles in the family services and family violence, Mingara joined GEGAC this month as our Aboriginal Best Start Facilitator.
The Aboriginal Best Start Facilitator helps Aboriginal families and carers make sure Aboriginal children 0 – 8 years old are getting the support and resources they need during these critical early years of their lives.
“That might be having a yarn with the schools about any issues Aboriginal children are having,” she says.
“Some parents are shy or too ashamed to ask questions and advocate for their kids. I can do that for you. I can be your advocate.”
“I know families in our community that won’t send their kids to school on days when there isn’t enough food in the house to pack the kid’s lunch. Cause they’re ashamed. I’ve been there, I understand that.”
“But we want our kids to be going to school and to be succeeding in school no matter what is happening. I can talk to the parents, talk to the schools, and we can find solutions and help try and get over these barriers.”
Mingara says another area Aboriginal families sometimes have trouble navigating is the health system, and the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS).
As a carer for her brother’s three children, all of which live with Level 3 Autism spectrum and intellectual disabilities, Mingara has had plenty of personal experience trying to unravel NDIS.
“It’s complicated, and it usually isn’t explained well for Aboriginal families, or any families really,” she says. “Nobody understands NDIS. But I’ve spent the past year studying NDIS, so I can now help other families figure it out too.”
“There are so many programs for Aboriginal children out there. But how are families expected to know what programs can help with and what supports they offer? That’s my job – to talk to families about what supports there are and help them access that support.”
“If you have a question, ask me. And if I don’t know the answer, I’ll find it out. As the Aboriginal Best Start Facilitator, I’m your advocate. Aboriginal families should know that we have your back, I have your back.”
If you want to yarn with Mingara about Aboriginal Best Start, or about any issues your Boorais are facing, it’s easy.
Just email email@example.com, call 5152 0810 and ask for her, or drop by the Bratowooloong Dala Yooro building at 36 Rupert Street in Bairnsdale on Tuesdays and Thursdays.