Port Augusta, South Australia

Dusty Feet Mob dancers usually let their feet do the talking. But for ten weeks leading up to December the girls are discovering different ways to express their joy, anger and grief.

A ten-week program, supported by Highways and Byways and the Uniting Aboriginal and Islander Christian Congress in Port Augusta, is helping a group of local Indigenous teenagers navigate their way through some life challenges. The participants aged between eight and 16 are members of the Dusty Feet Mob of dancers or their friends and relatives.

The program covers a different theme each week and is run by volunteers including indigenous leader Maria Anderson and her co-facilitator Chelsea Size as well as other members of the community.

Chelsea said the themes chosen were a response to community needs, particularly the grief experienced so regularly by so many young people.

“As a non-Indigenous person who has been part of this community for many years, the constant grief caused by deaths of older and young community members is unfamiliar to me. These young people don’t get time to grieve or heal before they are confronted with another death,” Chelsea said. “We are including spirituality in the program so that the girls can discover words, practices and rituals that could help them.”

A highlight of the program will be a trip out of Port Augusta on an elder-led tour of a sacred site that the girls would not be able to go to alone. Chelsea said the strengthening of their cultural knowledge and stories was vital to the girls’ sense of self.

“We have made this space and this program special for the girls. At the first session they walked into the hall and saw lovely food and beautiful flowers on the table and we gave them journals decorated with Aboriginal art,” she said

“The girls know we want this to be special for them and funding allows us to do that.”