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ECU coordinator wins First Nations Stroke Excellence Award

ECU Project Coordinator Kerri Colegate was awarded the First Nations Stroke Excellence Award, recognising excellence in stroke prevention, treatment, recovery, or research in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.

Kerri Colegate holds her First Nations Stroke Excellence Award with the CEO of the Stroke Foundation, Lisa Murphy. ECU Project Coordinator Kerri Colegate and Stroke Foundation Chief Executive Officer Lisa Murphy.

Incredible individuals were recognised at the annual National Stroke Awards, including Edith Cowan University (ECU) Project Coordinator, Kerri Colegate.

From survivors of stroke to researchers and health professionals to carers and more, these annual Awards acknowledge the exceptional individuals who make important contributions to stroke.

These efforts include individuals supporting their family and friends, raising awareness of stroke, and making a tangible difference in the lives of those impacted by stroke.

ECU Project Coordinator Kerri Colegate is a Noongar and Yamatji woman from the Whadjuk and Yuat clans and was awarded the First Nations Stroke Excellence Award.

This Award recognises excellence in stroke prevention, treatment, recovery, or research in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.

Kerri managed the ECU research project called Brain Injury Yarning Circles from 2021-2022, an Australian-first initiative established by in-community stroke and brain injury support groups which was run by, and catered to, Aboriginal Australians.

The project addressed Aboriginal Australians' underrepresentation in rehabilitation services by providing a culturally safe space and activities tailored to attendees' needs and wants.

It was co-run with ECU Director of Department of Rural Health South West, Professor Beth Armstrong and WA Centre for Rural Health Aboriginal facilitator Lenny Papertalk. At its completion, the yarning circles were able to continue through linking with a broader Aboriginal Disability Yarning group that takes place each week to date at the Champion Centre in Armadale, Perth. This group caters for mature-aged people with a disability.

Professor Beth Armstrong said the Yarning Circles constitute a unique opportunity led by local Aboriginal community leadership of which Kerri is a prominent part.

"It fills a huge gap providing much-needed support for Aboriginal people with brain injury to learn more about different ways of adapting to life after brain injury in a culturally safe space," Professor Armstrong said.

"It is wonderful that the group is continuing to grow and develop and now forms an important part of increasing disability awareness in the local Aboriginal community."

Kerri said that to be a finalist was exciting enough but to be announced as the winner was an honour.

"The people of Yarning group are those that make it what it is. Their presence and contribution to the group is why it's so unique and special," Kerri said.

"To be able to create a social and cultural space for each individual who has their own ability to come along and not only be present in the moment but to connect to one's community and kin through yarning, art, singing, music, games to name a few – this is what it is about and to be a part of the journey to see people re-engaging post-stroke is incredibly rewarding.

"If I can put a smile on any one person's face, I believe I have done my job. Our supporters also need to be mentioned as these people are the ones as well that create the great fun we have. All in all we have a sense of shared diversity and connectedness."

A proud mother of two adult children and a grandmother to three, Kerri also runs her own business, KM Noongar Consultancy Services specialising in disability support, capacity building and cultural consultancy.

She is also currently Research Project Manager of the national Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander sub-study of the AUS-mTBI project based at ECU exploring recovery from concussion.

Learn more about Brain Injury Yarning Circles at ECU and the full list of winners at the National Stroke Awards.

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