Name: Aja Praham
What is your dream?
My dream is to help women and girls improve their confidence, self-awareness and ability to deal with adversity through the use of sport and physical activity. By improving their mindset, we can create generational leaders and role models with the skills and confidence to continue these activities and encourage participation by women in their region. Access to consistent, professional and tailored programs are out of reach for residents in remote communities of Australia. I want to leave a legacy where local people develop the skills, knowledge and confidence to create their own programs, changing the mindset of individuals, and in turn help to reduce the range of social issues that are far too prevalent in remote indigenous communities.
Tell us a bit about you.
Sport was always a huge part of my life growing up, from American football, basketball, soccer, volleyball, track and field, to simple childish games like kickball, tag-freeze-tag and red light-green light. I was given the opportunity to play Division 1 basketball with Boston College in two of the top conferences in America – Big East & ACC. During this time I fell in love with the process and journey of becoming a great athlete; the part that the spectators don’t get to see. Playing two years in the WNBA with the Seattle Storm and 10 years in Europe, I continued my growth and knowledge both on and off the court. I gained both C.S.C.S and NASM certifications, and my passion and appreciation of the positive impact sport can play on an individual’s development and growth, lead to the creation of SportsMindset.
How have you demonstrated commitment?
In 2015 I was selected to take part in Impact Academy (IA), a social enterprise accelerator program. IA challenged me to consider my values, vision and mission, and ultimately guided the direction and growth of myself personally, and my company SportsMindset. It gave me the opportunity to learn about best practice in business, meet and learn from industry leading experts, and introduced me to my business mentor. With guidance from IA that I developed SMS outREACH, encompassing a ‘Train the Trainer’ program to upskill staff, coaches and volunteers, equipping them with the skills and confidence to plan and conduct sessions without the need for balanda (white people) to direct.. I have enrolled in a Graduate Diploma in Education through University of Queensland and attended the ‘Future of Leadership’ conference in Brisbane.
What challenges do you face?
The greatest challenge to sharing this knowledge with remote indigenous females is access. Travel costs, including charter flights and accommodation, are extremely high and act as a barrier in reaching this exceptional group. Yearly monsoonal rains for Top End communities play a factor and can impact service delivery as well as travel. With a large portion of funding directed to reactive services, I want to show the value in supporting proactive, positive programming in stemming the flow of negative outcomes and hopefully assisting in the big picture of reduced social issues in communities. Galiwin’ku on Elcho Island, NT, is currently facing a huge youth substance abuse crisis. Buildings and equipment are being stolen and destroyed, and program participation is low. If I can assist by upskilling local indigenous staff to conduct worthwhile engaging programs, then maybe, just maybe, we can reduce the nightly occurrences of crime and help by redirecting energy into more productive activities. With English sometimes a fourth/fifth language for many indigenous people, it’s vital we provide materials in local language. This takes time and resources to translate, but is invaluable if we want positive outcomes.
How will you use the money?
The grant money will be used to contribute towards two key projects: firstly, the development of our ‘Goal Setting and Values’ Blueprint Training Material. Currently, our ‘mindset’ sessions are conducted in a ‘brainstorming’ capacity on butcher’s paper in a Q&A style presentation. A smaller A2 size pad of the same ‘story’ will then let participants individually start to fill in the gaps and personalise it. Once we have created the blueprint, we can then translate both the branding and the language used on it to cater for different language, culture and sporting groups. Secondly, the funding will be used to support an outREACH program being conducted in Galiwin’ku, Elcho Island, where the materials mentioned above can be trialled and implemented. These materials would be translated into Yolngu Matha – the local language and combined with the outREACH ‘Train the Trainer’ program.
How do you plan to give back?
It is vitally important to me that I work to create opportunities for young people that reflect the opportunities I’ve had in my life. Since relocating to Australia and becoming a permanent resident, I have dedicated huge amounts of my time to sharing my experience and knowledge with Australian youth, especially young women. I work with emerging and developing athletes in the SEQ area, and offer a number of placements in the elite program free of charge for young Aboriginal and Torres Straight Islander women whose families normally couldn’t afford to be a part of these programs. Recently I have accepted volunteer positions with both the Queensland Basketball Under20 Women’s and Brisbane State High School Girls’ sides competing at national championships.