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Meet the organisation empowering Australia’s future female changemakers

August 11, 2023
May 19, 2022

After working in refugee settlement services, Kim Rollason-Nokes started to see a pattern. While there were plenty of community opportunities for young men, young women were often left behind. Especially 15- to 25-year-olds from migrant families.

“They had huge responsibilities at home, caring for siblings or parents with trauma, being the interpreter, doing the housework, while still trying to finish high school or move into higher education,” Kim says. “We weren’t doing enough to support these young women through the whole life experience.”

In 2017, Kim decided to do something to help women from culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) backgrounds, so she founded Ethni: a not-for-profit designed to arm young women with the skills they need to thrive.

Ethni’s programs include wellbeing and safety, support for mental health, domestic and family violence, training and development pathways, and advocacy work, which gives young women a platform to push for change. This includes opportunities to go into schools to talk about racism, discrimination and gender equality.

“They’ve been welcomed by the students and the teachers, who have often been quite shocked that things like racism and discrimination are still happening,” Kim explains. “Everyone’s responsible for learning about their own privileges, and how they can take actions every day to make other people feel more welcome and included.”

Kim wanted Ethni to provide support on a longer-term basis, rather than a short ‘check box’ program. She wanted the women, who are primarily from refugee and asylum-seeking backgrounds, to stay with the organisation for as long as they needed.

“It’s about looking at what these young women need so that they can thrive in the rest of their lives,” says Kim. “Many of them are coming into adulthood or transitioning through the education system into careers. A lot of the time they’re also navigating traditional cultural and family expectations, and forming their identity as a young person in Australia.”

Ethni are recipients of Bank Australia’s Impact Fund, which has enabled Kim and the team to run their Future Female Changemakers program.

“This leadership program is about giving our young women the fundamental tools and skills that they need to be able to go out and lead the change, whether that’s in school, workplaces or communities,” explains Kim. “This is how we help our young emerging leaders thrive.”

While many funding bodies provide financial assistance, Kim’s experience of our Impact Fund was different.

“It’s been a really beautiful partnership,” she says. “Working with Cecilia and the Impact Fund team has been amazing; they’ve given us the space to learn from what’s gone well, and then look at what we can improve.”

Bank Australia staff have even worked as mentors to the women in the Changemakers program.

“It hasn’t just funded a program,” Kim says. “It’s given us the opportunity to explore what’s possible for us as an organisation, and how we can have the greatest impact for our young women.”

Read more about our incredible Impact Fund recipients here.

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