Two brave, passionate First Nation’s women have recently embarked on a new journey addressing issues surrounding domestic violence in the Townsville community through positive empowerment.
After four years of experiencing domestic violence, Melisa Anderson of Nywaigi Country moved from Cairns to Townsville to be with her family and take control of her life again.
“It’s kind of frowned upon to talk about it but we survivors need to share our stories. Female empowerment is about being true to ourselves, being authentic and having the courage to stand up,” Melisa says.
Together with long-time friend Bernice Hookey of Waanyi Country, Melisa founded B.L.A.Q. Diamonds Women’s Empowerment last year (Beautiful, Loving, Authentic Queens).
“It was extreme suicidal thoughts that almost broke me in the end,” Bernice says.
Focused on inspiring women to realise their self-worth and pursue the lives they aspire to, the business is all about empowerment.
“We’re aiming not only to bring women together but to close the gap, encouraging them to progress socially and economically,” Melisa says.
“The goal is to get away from Government hand-outs and become more self-reliant. We want to break away from the stigmas surrounding the First Nations community.”
Bernice adds: “I can’t believe where I am now, one month away from completing a Diploma of Business (Governance) and being accepted into a Leadership Webinar Program with the National Rural Women Coalition.”
On April 26, B.L.A.Q. Diamonds hosted their Glamour US Event, in collaboration with Katrina’s Beauty School and Erica Wehrman, owner of Stylez Above The Rest, which is Townsville’s only Aboriginal female-owned hair salon. It was an event limited to a small number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women who took part in a full day of pampering uplifts, relaxation, and motivational and inspirational talks.
Sisters Chrissy and Victoria Leontios, who attended the event, have experienced firsthand the effect domestic violence has on a family. Chrissy says it was these past experiences that drove her to open her own business, CLEON Legal & Mediation Services.
“I’m passionate about empowering women and I do that through my law firm,” Chrissy says.
“I think events like Glamour US, with Bernice and Melisa being so authentic through sharing their stories, allow others who are vulnerable to be given the encouragement and support to speak up too.”
“We don’t want our kids to have to go through what we’ve been through,” Bernice says.
“We’re seeing changes but we need to continue to break the cycle and put an end to the stereotypes.”
The next Blaq Diamonds Event is the NAIDOC 2018 Gala Evening, being held at The Pier Restaurant in Townsville on Sunday July 15. Limited seats are available. For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org.