women standing in a circle outdoors, wearing hand made masks and smiling

For the last seven years, Nambour Community Centre has run the Strong Women group program, a program built around art and connection that offers a safe and supportive space for women in the community who are impacted by domestic and family violence. 

 “What we are really about is building safety in our community and with each other.” Social Worker at the Centre, Rachel Dowling explained. 

Rachel and her colleague Lise Holt work directly with local women and families in Nambour, and  recognise that domestic and family violence often isolate community members and cause disconnect within the community.  

Rachel and Lise highlighted the impact of the Strong Women Program and its capacity to build trust in the community. 

“You can just see them [participants] trusting themselves and trusting their community and trusting the support out there”

Rachel and Lise share a vision for building a sense of belonging for people in Nambour, who may have felt isolated by their situation. The program has been successful, with many program attendees growing their connections and confidence, going on to volunteer at the Community Centre, begin formal studies and apply for jobs. They also form connections with one another, developing lasting friendships within the community. 

This year, through the efforts of Linda Dennis, the multicultural worker at Nambour Community Centre, Nambour was able to receive a women’s grant, enabling a series of workshops for Domestic Violence month in May. Through collective efforts to continue the conversation around domestic and family violence in the community, the idea of the ‘Move Freely’ program was inspired.  

 Rachel and Lise wanted ‘Move Freely’ to be heartfelt and come from the community. They collaborated with local community members, Nicola Turschwell, a local art therapist, Abigail Wake, who runs the Nambour and Perigean based ‘Awake Movement’ dance studio and  Ketakii Jewson-Brown, a local photographer to facilitate the new program. 

“It’s a beautiful collaboration of people who are super passionate about the work they do, the people, the community they’re surrounded by and the place that were in.”

Nicola, Abigail and Ketakii will facilitate a series of four empowering workshops that delve into self-discovery and foster community building. Each week, the workshops will revolve around the elemental themes of earth, wind, air, and fire to encourage women to explore themselves, and their sense of community through art and movement. By providing a safe space for the attendees to connect with others, ‘Move Freely’ aims to empower and cultivate resilience amongst the women in Nambour community.  

The three local women combined somatic art therapy, embodied movement and photography to showcase a creative awareness journey over the four weeks. The skill and support Nicola, Abigail and Ketakii offered has been invaluable to the program, hosting sessions each week that created a space for the community to delve deeper, share and to feel joy when exploring their sense of self. When asked of the impact of ‘Move Freely’, Nicola shared  

“I’m hoping it will invite people into their bodies and to build and support trust in themselves and their innate deeper knowings. I also hope it will be lots of fun and be playful – a natural state for us all to enjoy.”

‘Move Freely’ will capture the power of the body as a creative source and outlet, exploring what happens when we move our bodies on our own, but also collectively. Rachel and Lise hope to bring awareness of how women feel in themselves and in the world.  

“Move Freely is about the ability to move freely, whether that is within ourselves or within our community… it should be our right to move freely in our community.”

 When asked of the effect they aspire see from ‘Move Freely’ they shared: 

“We’re hoping women will walk (or dance!) away, having learnt more about what their internal sense is so that they can use it as they go into the community and in different parts of their lives.”

The workshops began on May 9th and ran weekly throughout the month. Rachel and Lise are hopeful that ‘Move Freely’ will allow women to explore the stories their bodies are telling them. This program speaks to the heart behind their work, fostering support and shared togetherness for the women in Nambour community.  

“We are always here and always supporting.”



Written By: Esther Kiernan
Published: May 2023