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THE GRANDMOTHER HOMEMAKER PROGRAM: support for families in remote Aboriginal communities

The Pymble Social Justice group has focused on support for this Program since it was set-up by the Sisters of St Joseph in 2006. It operates within Aboriginal communities on the remote and vast APY Lands in north-western South Australia (approaching the size of Victoria) where ~3,000 Anangu people live in several small communities or ‘townships’.


The Program was the outcome of discussions between a group of Anangu grandmothers – concerned about the future of their grandchildren – and non-indigenous women, including professional social workers and Josephite sisters who had a strong interest in child protection. The discussions were aimed primarily at addressing the issues of child abuse and neglect within the Anangu communities.


The pervading situation facing the Anangu people was clearly stated in a 2006 reflection by Sister Kenise Neill rsj who wrote, “The dysfunction of the Aboriginal communities, including the abuse and neglect of children, is grounded in the context in which they have survived the 200 years of colonisation….. The forced separation of Aboriginal children from their families and communities has resulted (in) such things as the loss of parenting skills and abilities. Aboriginal people for generations have suffered land dispossession, starvation, inadequate infrastructure, physical and sexual brutality, forced removal of children, forced assimilation ….. and the treatment of Aboriginal people still to-day breaches the most basic human rights”.


The approach of the Grandmother Homemaker Program to address the situation has been to develop Family Centres, run primarily by Aboriginal mothers and grandmothers, where they can meet each day with pre-school children in a safe environment and where they can cook nourishing meals, provide opportunities for play, learn homemaking skills and good nutritional practice etc. The first and most successful Family Centre was established in Amata (just south of the NT border). Centres are currently operating in five APY communities. They do receive significant funding from the SA Government but it falls far short of what is needed.


The Pymble Social Justice Group is in close contact with Sister Marianne Zeinstra rsj who lives in Amata and assists Brenda Stubbs, an Anangu grandmother, in the day-to-day operation of the Family Centre. Progress in Amata has been substantial. Over the past 3 years nearly $10,000 has been raised by Pymble parishioners and distributed through the Mary MacKillop Foundation to support the Program. As well as providing direct assistance to the Amata Family Centre (for the purchase of essential equipment as well as toys for the children) a significant amount has been given to the Nganampa Health Council, an Anangu-controlled community health organization that provides ‘high quality clinical and preventative health care services delivered in culturally appropriate ways’ to APY communities in general.


The main promotion and fundraising activity of the Social Justice Group in Pymble (at both Parish churches) is held each year during National Reconciliation Week. More information on the Grandmother Homemaker Program and the involvement of the Pymble Social Justice Group can be obtained from its current leader, Natasha McDougall (natashamcd@gmail.com).

2 comments to THE GRANDMOTHER HOMEMAKER PROGRAM: support for families in remote Aboriginal communities

  • Marianne Zeinstra rsj

    The Amata Family Centre is very grateful for the assistance given in many forms through the Pymble Parish and the Mary Mackillop Foundation ie shaded play area, toys, assistance in child nutrition. The Foundation also supports child nutrition across the APY Lands. However I need to make a small but important correction- The “Grandmother Homemaker Program ” was not set up by the Sisters it was set up by the SA Department of Families and Communities. The Sisters did help raise awareness of what the mothers and grandmothers were asking for re care for children at risk. The Sisters do help out in a voluntary capacity at the Amata Family Centre.

  • benjamin Iyakaremye

    Thanks for what you do but I need a support because I want to continue my study if it is possible. I real appreciate for what you do may God bless you

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