Westward bound: Dominica’s Daughters of the West journey ignites community spirit 


    By Michael Gartland 

    Inner-West, where the rhythm of daily life echoes the diverse heartbeats of family life, a remarkable story of personal transformation and community-minded dedication unfolds. 

    Domenica, known affectionately as ‘Dom’ to her friends and ‘Mum’ to her teenagers, embarked on a 10-week journey with Daughters of the West that has spurred her on from the living room couch, in pursuit of opportunities to make a tangible difference in the community. 

    Dom’s path to the Daughters of the West program was inspired by her husband’s positive experiences with the Western Bulldogs Community Foundation’s Sons of the West program. 

    “Each week, he’d come home (from the sessions) and he’d have such a positive attitude! We lived a pretty hectic lifestyle; running our own business, teenage kids at home, but he’d come home raving about what he’d just learnt from the health experts, and the new levels he had reached.” 

    Observing the profound impact the exercise and health education sessions had on her husband, Dom felt compelled to embark on her own journey of self-improvement. Within weeks she realised that she was getting so much more than just health tips. 

    “During the ten weeks I made so many new friends, but it was the connection to the local community that did it for me,” she recalls enthusiastically. “I’d bump into them at the shops, or wherever else, and just feel so a part of the world around me!” 

    Daughters of the West sees participants like Dominica engage in sessions focusing on physical health, mental well-being, and dietary habits, among other crucial life skills. It is the approach to education that makes the impact, leveraging expert speakers, fostering a supportive environment where questions are encouraged, experiences are shared and all are welcomed at whatever stage in life they currently find themselves in. 

    “It’s funny you know. Wednesday would come about and instead of looking forward to the weekend, I’d already be looking forward to the next Tuesday, eager for the next walk and talk, curious about what the next session would be.” 

    The sense of community doesn’t end with the conclusion of the program. Graduates are given the opportunity to volunteer, further cementing their ties to the community and expanding their impact. For Domenica, volunteering became a full-circle moment as she was reminded of her own experiences as a young person learning English as an additional language. 

    “I couldn’t even say, how do I go to the toilet in English,” she exclaims with a laugh. “So to be here at the MCG for the CALDplay gala is a little surreal for me.” 

    CALDplay offers culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) communities an introduction to Australian sports such as AFL, cricket or netball, with the intention of creating a pathway for newly arrived Australians to participate in their community. 

    Aware that job interviews are already a stressful experience without throwing a non-native language into the mix, CALDplay also equips participants with employment ready skills through a series of workshops that culminate in mock interviews. 

    Non-native English speakers have also been identified by WorkSafe Victoria as being particularly prone to workplace exploitation, so the program also educates participants on their rights. 

    As a volunteer, Dom uses her lived experience as a migrant, and her new-found sense of self-worth to spread positivity throughout all the circles of life she walks through. 

    “It’s only a couple of hours a week, but you know, just to be able to spread the word and also be able to help out is such an honour and I get so much out of it.” 

    Dom’s involvement in CALDplay and Daughters of the West highlights the power of community programs in bridging gaps, breaking down barriers, and fostering a sense of belonging among diverse populations. 

    “I just think it’s growing. I think it’s getting better and better all the time, and I want to hopefully be able to grow with the Foundation and, you know, be able to give as much time as I can.” 

    For community champions like Dom, community engagement is not just about participating in programs but about embracing the opportunity to impact lives, inspire change, and cultivate a supportive network that thrives on diversity, inclusion, and mutual respect. 

    Our content is a labour of love, crafted by dedicated volunteers who are passionate about the west. We encourage submissions from our community, particularly stories about your own experiences, family history, local issues, your suburb, community events, local history, human interest stories, food, the arts, and environmental matters. Below are articles created by community contributors. You can find their names in the bylines.

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