In the Spotlight

Cunnara Giluma Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Corporation

Cunnara Giluma Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Corporation is an exciting new addition to the landscape of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisations contributing to the needs of their children, families and communities. Cunnara Giluma means One Circle, symbolising connection and the holistic approach to healing this organisation is intent on providing.

Their logo has been specifically created for the story it tells. The 4 Boomerangs mark Australia as being under the Southern Cross, thus signifying the people of the Southern Cross. The circles on the Boomerangs represent the many First Nation Australian communities, language groups, Clan groups and initiations. The 5 black dots represent some of their core beliefs and perspectives which encompass: health, spirit, environment (land, seas and waters), community (Kinship) and language. The larger circles represent: communities, kinship groups and individuals. The black lines are symbolic of tracks for coming and going and denote places representative of their people’s hunting and gathering traditions alongside their travels and trading from one community to another.

As the Managing Directors of Cunnara Giluma, relationships are at the heart of all that Michelle Whiting and Louisa Bonner do. Their relationship began when they met many years ago when their daughters were at school together. They connected and acknowledged they had similar life goals and intents. Most notably, they wanted to change the life opportunities for children, young people and families in their communities. Louisa, as a Foster Carer and Elder and Michelle as a Social Worker, had both experienced the conundrums faced by children and families and they wanted to intervene in a way that would improve the life outcomes and long term wellbeing for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and families. In fact, they care about all children and families. Some years later when their sons were again attending the same school, Louisa and Michelle cemented their friendship and began fruitful conversations about the long term dream they both shared and determined to make it come true.

Today they’ve made their collective dream a reality in the form of Cunnara Giluma Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Corporation. As the Managing Directors, Louisa and Michelle are excited about the possibilities that lie before them.

“Ultimately what we both have in common is an unwavering passion for working with our kids, our families and communities. All it took was a dinner to reignite our passion and we decided this is what we want to do. Since then, we’ve worked hard to make sure it is what we are doing” said Louisa. Michelle further noted: “We are committed to working with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and families. We need to look after our children and do it culturally appropriately. We have developed a new model that gives children their cultural identity and sense of belonging through mentoring and guidance.”

Cunnara Giluma’s focus is on empowering Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children, families and communities to come together and connect. Michelle is a Social Worker and Louisa has a Diploma in Welfare and a number of Business qualifications to her name. In celebrating her long history of counselling in her community, she is currently undertaking formal counselling qualifications. Louisa and Michelle believe that their differences complement each other’s intent and their similarities power them forward in unison to achieve what they most want for Cunnara Giluma, their people and their communities.

Louisa is a well-known traditional owner in Ipswich. Her traditional ties are from Yuggera language people’s sub-group Jagera. Michelle’s traditional ties are from the Barunggam people of the Chinchilla area.

As Cunnara Giluma’s Directors, their primary aim is to work with children and young people in out of home care to assist them in returning home – to family and community. They are also adept at working in court processes and advocating for those who need this support. Social inclusion, including the voices of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people as well as the many multicultural people in our society who need support and advocacy is of specific importance to Louisa and Michelle. They want all in our community to have a place, be heard and be supported in being viable members of their local communities and our society as a whole.

They are determined to be able to inform all in the community about their rights. They are aware that many Indigenous people don’t know they can go to the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Service (ATSILS) for assistance. They’ve also worked with many African people who don’t understand our systems such as social income options and are confused about Centrelink supports. They aim to support all in their community to be included, have a voice, be heard, supported and appreciated for the unique offerings they bring to their local and wider communities.

Above all, Louisa and Michelle assert that this partnership is about Aboriginal women standing together. Standing tall and taking responsibility for their children, families and communities. Working hard to regain a voice, be heard and be leaders in their communities of those willing and able to care for and work with children, young people and families who want to be together and thriving in culture.

Over the past few years Michelle and Louisa have each worked in community organisations, Michelle as a Social Worker and Therapist through Footsteps to Freedom and Louisa through Ngaran Goori Limited, a Traditional Owner organisation. Now they’ve brought their respective stills and abilities together to share their expertise in the forming of Cunnara Giluma Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Corporation.

In her Private Practice within Footsteps to Freedom, Michelle has recently completed a pilot for a court support program in Ipswich working with the Department of Child Safety. Footsteps to Freedom is also working collaboratively with the Logan City Council within its funded Domestic and Family Violence Support group. They have recently completed a pilot program for round 1 of the Empowering Families funding. They aim to secure further funding in the round 2 applications.

Community engagement is front and centre of all that Louisa and Michelle do. Their new organisation will continue this journey and ensure that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children, families and communities have the resources and capacity to work within culture in a way that meets their needs, capacity, desire and intent.

As well as seeking Government funding, Cunnara Giluma is also working to gain sponsors and corporate partners in order to carry out this essential work. The bottom line of all they do is that of keeping Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children and Families safe and together.

For more information, please contact –

Michelle on: 0431 447 635 or Tamara: on 0412 552 182


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