The Kimberley Girl program is making a profound difference to the lives of young Indigenous women, saving them from hardships like alcohol and drug abuse, and instilling them with the confidence to take to the catwalk in front of their community.
Watching the young Indigenous girls assertively strutting down the beach runway in front of hundreds of onlookers at Broome’s Cable Beach Polo, it’s hard to believe that some have come from a life of sexual and physical abuse, social/emotional wellbeing issues, and a number of other heartbreaking problems.
To see the girls smiling with new assuredness and pride, it’s obvious that the personal development and confidence-building program Kimberley Girl (for girls between the ages of 16 and 25) has changed their lives.
The Kimberley Girl project enables young women from the state's north to overcome social and family problems that have blighted their lives, boosting their self-esteem and confidence.
Since its inception in 2004 by ex-model and chief operations officer of Goolarri Media Enterprises, Kira Fong, the program has been a huge success. It all started when Kira returned to Broome after years of being away from home, and noticed the number of young beautiful girls lacking self-confidence and roaming the streets of the town. The first Kimberley Girl show ran with no budget – clothing was donated for the parade, and only 80 people from the community attended on
the first night. Then word got out, and the second night was a big success, with an overwhelming 300 people attending and supporting the girls’ runway show.
Since then the program has helped hundreds of girls to improve their lot in life.
“Exactly 300, between 2004 and 2013, with a new cohort of 36 participants about to go through the program for 2014,” says Kira.
Today the program involves five days of workshops that educate the girls and give
them the skills, tools and knowledge to reject domestic violence and negative relationships, and harness the drive for personal ambition and positive life choices.
Some of the stories that have come through the program are hard to believe; one girl was self-harming; another had a boyfriend at the time who suffered depression and threatened to commit suicide; and another had an alcoholic mother and a father who was in jail for five years for sexually abusing her and her younger siblings. All these young women worked through the program and walked away as positive and changed people.
From humble beginnings, the program is now running in a number of communities that also includes Port Hedland and Karratha.
With the number of success stories emerging from the program, it’s hard to believe that government funding has just been pulled, but Kira remains positive and determined.
“Yes, we lost our government funding – both State and Commonwealth. However the generosity of corporate partners and the local community has ensured we can deliver Kimberley Girl this year, but in a much smaller capacity and without being able to extend the benefits of the program to towns and remote communities around the Kimberley and Pilbara region,” says Kira. “As such, we are doing workshops in Karratha only in the Pilbara, without a major event, and will be doing two weeks of workshops and two events in Broome, reducing the program from eight weeks to three, and the number of participants from 72 to 36 for 2014.”