Maarni Aboriginal Women’s Leadership Program

Maarni, which means ‘coming together’ in the Barkindji language, was established to develop the employment and governance skills of Aboriginal women identified by our Aboriginal partner organisations as emerging leaders, in order that they may undertake paid and management roles within their organisations, and play a leadership role and gain employment in the wider community. The program addresses the lack of suitable training and employment programs for Aboriginal women in Victoria.


Maarni participants and mentors at Fellowship for Indigenous Leadership Emerging Leader Awards, Nov 2015


Opportunities for Aboriginal women

Economic development is a key strategy towards self-determination. Employment and opportunities for work experience and further training for young people, particularly women, is a request that Woor-Dungin consistently receives from our Aboriginal partner organisations.

Woor-Dungin currently provides opportunities for Aboriginal people to undertake work experience and voluntary work in a supportive environment, where they will receive intensive computer training, and have access to professional development, networks and on-the-job mentoring. Aboriginal women who undertake their community-based order at Woor-Dungin are provided with this type of support.

Woor-Dungin has many strong, skilled Aboriginal women on staff, committee of management and as members, who act as role models and mentors. Additionally Woor-Dungin provides access to skilled non-Aboriginal people, in particular retirees, who are all keen to provide support and offer the time needed to develop genuine relationships.


Working collaboratively

Woor-Dungin is part of a network of organisations that focus on providing leadership development, employment and training opportunities for Aboriginal women. This network includes Koorie Women Mean Business, Oxfam Aboriginal Program, Sistas Doing It For Themselves Project (involving the YWCA, Victorian Local Governance Association and Emily’s List) and Weenthunga Health Network.


Maarni program objectives

  1. To provide work experience and training that will lead to the employment of Aboriginal women in their local Aboriginal organisation and in the wider community;
  2. To provide capacity building and mentoring in order to enhance the knowledge and ability of Aboriginal women to find the resources needed to enable Aboriginal organisations to realise the goals identified in their strategic plans; and
  3. To provide capacity building, internships and mentoring in order to enhance the skills and confidence of Aboriginal women to join the Management Committee or Board of their local Aboriginal organisation and/or participate in wider public and/or community committees.


Maarni participants, mentors and other stakeholders during a training session at Ashurst in Melbourne, April 2016



The program commenced in November 2015 in a venue generously provided by Arnold Bloch Leibler. Over the week, eight participants got to know each other better and explored their development plans.

In 2016, workshops and training on selected components of the program were held, with some sessions taking place on country at Aboriginal community-controlled organisations, followed by practical work experience, internships and ongoing mentoring.

Although formally completed, the program continues to have energy in 2017, with several of the eight graduates forming friendships and continuing to connect with the Program’s mentors. For instance, Sherree Chaudhry, HR Manager at Winda-Mara Aboriginal Corporation, spent the day at pro bono partner Colin Biggers & Paisley in Melbourne shadowing HR Consultant Cheryl Asquith.

“Shadowing Cheryl for a day in her workplace was a good eye-opener. Even though we are in entirely different business worlds, the role of human resources is the same everywhere. Cheryl was fantastic and I am so pleased that she is someone I can ask for guidance.”

Sherree Chaudhry