1 March 2024

Vulnerability and bravery drive strength for young Aurukun leaders

| Chisa Hasegawa
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Jacqueline Kepple, Norma Armstrong-Ravula and Chantelle Walmbeng

PCYC Aurukun youth support workers Jacqueline Kepple and Norma Armstrong-Ravula, and police liaison officer Chantelle Walmbeng are all smiles are delivering a moving presentation on how the organisation is tackling domestic and family violence in the western Cape York community at the Say No to Domestic and Family Violence Conference in Cairns. Photo: Lyndon Keane.

“I can’t change them; what I can change is my future, and the future of children in Aurukun.”

With these extremely personal and powerful words, 19-year-old Chantelle Walmbeng silenced a room full of strangers as she explained how her own experiences were shaping her approach to leading the remote western Cape York community’s attitude to domestic and family violence.

Alongside close friend and PCYC Aurukun youth support worker Jacqueline Kepple, Ms Walmbeng, who is Queensland’s youngest police liaison officer, the young women courageously shared stories about overcoming obstacles and the pivotal role their local PCYC had played in bringing strength and direction to lives at the Say No to Domestic and Family Violence Conference in Cairns on 22 February, 2024.

The three-day event brought professionals, academics, activists, advocates, and survivors from around the world together to prevent and respond to domestic and family violence.

The Aurukun pair, along with PCYC Aurukun youth support worker Norma Armstrong-Ravula, were invited to make a keynote presentation to share their stories, as well as outline how the organisation was taking an unconventional approach to teaching youth about relationships, and domestic and family violence.

Ms Walmbeng said violence had been a typical part of her life growing up.

“My very first memory of my childhood is my parents fighting,” she told conference delegates.

“I didn’t know any different, and that was quite normal in our group.”

In front of a captivated audience, she explained her turning point came when she was away at boarding school and threw a chair against a wall out of frustration.

“At that moment, I realised I needed to change, or I would repeat my parents’ mistakes,” Ms Walmbeng said.

Chantelle Walmbeng presents at conference

PCYC Aurukun police liaison officer Chantelle Walmbeng shares her story at the Say No to Domestic and Family Violence conference in Cairns on 22 February. Photo: Lyndon Keane.

Ms Kepple said although it was difficult to share personal experiences, she was glad she did.

“I felt nervous and my heart was pounding,” she told Cape York Weekly after the presentation.

Both Ms Walmbeng and Ms Kepple said PCYC Aurukun had become a “safe place” for them to better themselves and inspire others.

Youth support worker Norma Armstrong-Ravula also spoke to delegates and told the conference that she was having a joking argument with her husband, club manager Sergeant Steve Armstrong-Ravula, at PCYC Aurukun when one of the youth participants overheard something she had said and commented “miss, you’re gonna get a fat lip speaking to your husband like that”.

“That’s when it clicked that we are modelling what a relationship should look like,” Ms Armstrong-Ravula said.

Ms Walmbeng and Ms Kepple also played a significant role in opening up the conversation about violence and appropriate behaviour at home through the Kang Kang Youth Leadership Team.

The team has collaborated on over 30 events and 10 programs, all aimed at servicing the young people of Aurukun and bettering their futures.

“Steve and Norma have worked on providing a safe place for us, so no idea is a dumb idea, and we can freely speak about what we want to do,” Ms Kepple explained.

“Although there is a lot of work to do, we feel we are heading in the right direction with our young people in Aurukun.”

If you or someone you know needs support regarding domestic and family violence, call: 1800RESPECT national helpline: 1800 737 732 or Women’s Crisis Line: 1800 811 811 or Men’s Referral Service: 1300 766 491 or Lifeline (24 hour crisis line): 13 11 14.

Original Article published by Chisa Hasegawa on Cape York Weekly.

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