Yok Djakoorliny is a women’s running group that aims to support both Indigenous and non-Indigenous women through fitness.
Yok Djakoorliny is a Noongar name for the group, with Yok meaning woman and Djakoorliny meaning running.
Jenni Curtis is a Ballardong, Whadjuk, Yued woman and the founder of Yok Djakoorliny Incorporated.
Ms Curtis told the National Indigenous Times that she calls Yok Djakoorliny the “accidental organisation” because it eventuated that way after being incorporated in 2017.
“My sister’s husband was a chairperson of an Aboriginal organisation in Perth who were putting together a running group for the City to Surf,” she said.
“It was going to be the first Aboriginal group to run in an event. Originally there were three or four of us and she asked if we wanted to join the team.
“We kind of put up our hands and went ‘yeah, OK, we can do this. Let’s give it a go. Four kilometres, it’s not that far.’ So, we rocked up on a Thursday night and they even supplied a personal trainer.
“You know, you’re talking about 40 plus women here, I think the personal trainer sort of secretly took a look at us and went, ‘Oh my god, what do I have here?’ but you know, credit to her, she had us running after doing a six-week training program.”
Ms Curtis told the National Indigenous Times that the group went to the City to Surf and ran the four kilometres without walking — it was the start of something much bigger.
After taking part in more events and marathons, Ms Curtis formed an all Aboriginal board for Yok Djakoorliny Incorporated, which included all the original members.
It was a board of all women; run by women for women.
Now Ms Curtis said that she would have over 200 medals to herself, showing that you can do anything you put your mind to.
Although promoting fitness is an aim of the group, Ms Curtis said the group was formed for much greater reasons than running.
“It was more about us women running and showing that no matter what age (you start) there’s no barriers,” she said.
“If you set your mind to something you can actually achieve it, and with the right support around, you can do wonders.”
Carol Brewster-Michie and Kathryn Bowie are members of the group. Both women said a big part of the reason they take part is for the networking, and not having to do it alone.
Ms Brewster-Michie is one of the original members of the group and sits on the board.
She reflected on how far they have come “running on ovals between posts, to four kilometres to half-marathons”.
Ms Brewster-Michie said that seeing the way the group has evolved, it has become more than just physical health.
“It’s just the whole thing — mind, body, soul and spirit. And helping women in whatever way that is needed,” she said.
Ms Curtis also highlighted the importance of having an Aboriginal women leadership because “for a long time, we were the minority” and now we get that control and power to have our own group.
As a non-Indigenous member, Wendy Gillett said she joined Yok Djakoorliny as a positive way to contribute and make a difference.
“I think women’s health and wellbeing is critical, and the people that need it the most are Aboriginal women. If I can support that, then yeah … I wanna jump in with two feet.”
Ms Gillett said that she also believes having an Aboriginal-controlled organisation is crucial, especially in regard to Aboriginal women.
“It’s really critical that Indigenous women, Aboriginal women have a voice.
“And to support other women and understand how you can do that,” she said.
“That’s really the power of the group, being in a supportive environment. You can talk about anything, you can share resources, you can just be like another shoulder.
“And that, I think, is the power of the group really.”
By Teisha Cloos