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International Women's Day Jess Fatnowna

[supplied by NIAA]

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The many aspects of Jess Fatnowna: mentor and fellow mentor, hockey player and Most Determined 2021 Cairns City Lions Women’s AFL award winner. (Photos courtesy of Aspire Cairns Community Limited)

International Women’s Day is celebrated each year on 8 March and serves to focus the world on women’s rights.

It is a day to fight against bias, take action in the pursuit of equality and to celebrate women’s achievements.

Indigenous.gov.au has highlighted and continues to highlight the lives and service of great Indigenous women in Australia.

In this story we profile Jess Fatnowna, a Cairns Regional Council Young Women of the Year Nomination and mentor for Aspire Cairns Community Limited who works with young Indigenous women supporting the Aspire to be Deadly Program.

‘Growing up being an Indigenous female I never really had a mentor in my life,’ Jess said.

‘I wanted to make sure I was present in someone else’s life as I didn’t get that opportunity.  Through sport or school, I pretty much had to navigate all by myself as I couldn’t identify with anyone who inspired me.’

Julie McNeil is CEO of Aspire Cairns Community Limited.

‘Jess Fatnowna is an already experienced and skilled program mentor,’ Julie said.

‘Jess has developed her role within the community and in these times of change and uncertainty, the vulnerable and at risk suffer the most, and it is in this space that Jess has become a role model and leader committed to breaking the bias and supporting vulnerable young women and girls.’

‘Jess does not shy away from a challenge, and this tenacity sets her apart from peers. She consistently demonstrates a can-do attitude and will find a way to solve a problem.‘

Jess is just 23 years old and said that along with personal desire, it’s her family, friends and the students she works with that drive her success.

‘My greatest satisfaction is knowing I’m helping young Indigenous females have a happier and safer life,’ Jess said.

‘The joy I have when I’m with the students I work with brightens up my day each time I see them. The memories I have with each student is such a gift!’

Julie McNeil said that Jess has a vision to create safe learning spaces where engagement is nurtured, and self-worth and self-belief can grow.

‘Jess creates programs that include dance, physical activity, team building and cultural support with over 30 young people per week attending the Aspire Community Hub and Yarning Place at Cairns Hockey,’ she said.

And to those young women she works with on a regular basis, Jess has an important message.

‘If there is a great opportunity, make sure you take it. Be a risk taker, be more present in your life and most importantly believe in yourself.’

‘Appreciate what you have and be grateful for what you have. Excel in what you can as you only have one life.’

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