Turning women into queens
25 May 2020 at 8:20 am
Elena Maria Wangurra, a Warrimirri and Triestina woman, is creating a safe space for women and girls of colour to thrive in their communities through her organisation QueenMode Collective. She’s this week’s Changemaker.
The idea for QueenMode (QM) came about after Wangurra returned from travelling around the country as a performing artist, visiting communities where she saw a lack of support for young women of colour to grow and thrive.
She set up QM as a way to connect Aboriginal women and girls with their culture, to share their stories with the world, and provide educational resources to help them reach their potential.
The organisation runs workshops on leadership, self-esteem, and event management, and many of the workshops are also available online, so girls and women in rural and remote communities don’t miss out.
In this week’s Changemaker, Wangurra discusses what she’s trying to achieve through QM, tips on starting a social change organisation, and how being a charity CEO has changed her outlook on the world.
How did the idea for QM come about?
The concept for QM came out of years of informal consultation with First Nations women and girls around the country; mentees, close friends, family, acquaintances, colleagues and a common story of a lack of safe spaces, support or pathways for these women to be able to succeed in a western reality.
It was clear that there was a need and while there were some short-term programs and initiatives, we wanted to create spaces based on a long-term sustainable model that has a holistic approach. An organisation that draws on long tried and tested cultural frameworks but operates in a modern context.
What do you want to achieve through QM?
We create spaces to network, share skills, provide peer-to-peer mentoring, and share experiences that empower our community to live fuller lives. We aim to reach half a million First Nations women and women of colour over the next five years.
What does your day look like as the founder of QM?
At the moment, it’s regular contact with First Nations women all over the country and in different parts of the world, finding the intersection for women of colour and creating offerings. I also handle the operational requirements of QM where I work on our online platforms and collaborate on programs and projects with our ambassadors and facilitators.
What advice would you give to someone wanting to start their own social impact project?
There have been a lot of moments of learning along the way, but some key points would be to identify, build, [and] create a team whose intention fits the vision, the right people with the right skill set. Fundamentals and foundation are also everything, take the time to get that right. You also need to remember you will stumble and fall – it is almost a given. Stay on your course.
How has the experience of leading your organisation changed your outlook on the world?
Starting QM and leading in this space has further supported all the conversations with different sisters and highlighted the need for healthy spaces for Indigenous women in Australia and our sisters of colour.
It hasn’t necessarily changed my perception but rather deepened my understanding [of] where inequality is present for women of colour and where we can find ways to support, [and] shift our paradigms on an individual and collective level.
Working within QM continues to re-ignite my personal drive and passion to see a shift in this space.