New skills and new clothes for remote NT community

Bulman Women’s Centre has been operating for a while now with many local women involved in different activities. They are understandably very proud of their centre and its programs which enable women to build their skills in different areas. So when centre coordinator Jill approached ICV with an idea for a sewing program, ICV was delighted to get involved.

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Bulman is a large community of around 500 mostly Aboriginal people some 300km north east of Katherine in the Northern Territory. It also provides important resources to nearby smaller communities and homeland centres and outstations.

Bulman Women’s Centre has been operating for a while now with many local women involved in different activities. They are understandably very proud of their centre and its programs which enable women to build their skills in different areas. So when centre coordinator Jill approached ICV with an idea for a sewing program, ICV was delighted to get involved.

ICV staff spent time with Jill and the women exploring their idea further. The women were particularly keen to learn basic sewing and dressmaking skills, with their goal being to make and mend clothes for themselves and their community.

Volunteer Ruth’s three day trip from the east coast of NSW via Sydney, Darwin and Katherine was only the start of her journey. During her three weeks in Bulman, Ruth learned just as much as she taught.

Ruth’s openness and positivity contributed to a great partnership approach to the project. She found the women of the community to be friendly, caring and keen to learn, which has resulted in lasting friendships and fond memories.

For their part, the women learned to design basic dress patterns, use different stitches, mend and repair clothes and make garments from scratch. They also learned how to operate and maintain a sewing machine. After just one week with Ruth, the women were already making clothing. The women’s new skills mean they are able to provide new and cheap clothing to local children, and to sell to the local community store and through the newly opened Op shop.

“We were very pleased with the support Ruth gave us,” says Women’s Centre Coordinator Jill. “The ladies were very pleased with the outcomes from the project too. They all worked well with Ruth and now they are very happy and proud of their achievements. They look forward to strengthening their skills and maybe creating a community market to supply and sell products.”

The women have invited Ruth back to help them increase their skills and make items to sell at the annual Walaman Festival this year.