“Be My Koorda” means “be my brother” or “be my friend” in Nyoongar language.
Be My Koorda is a parent-run support group, for Aboriginal families who have children with a disability. The support group was created 3 years ago by Evelyn McKay, after her son, who is on the Autism Spectrum, said that he needed a friend.
Here is a great resource that Evelyn created with Rocky Bay; a book called “Visiting My Mob”, which is in both Nyoongar and English, about what it’s like for people on the Autism Spectrum to go visiting. Some of the artwork was created by her son!
Evelyn is mother to 5 children; 3 boys and 2 girls. One of her boys is on the Autism Spectrum and another has Anxiety/ ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder). She’s Aboriginal – her grandmother is Bibbulman and her grandfather is Yamitj. At first, she named her group “Be My Friend” but was told by her grandmother that the group needed a Nyoongar name – and we all know that Nan knows best! So she changed the name to “Be My Koorda”. “Koorda” is actually a Yamitj word, suggested by her grandmother but the group is held in Nyoongar country.
The amount of activities and gatherings that Evelyn has managed to do in partnership with other community organisations is impressive and you can tell that this is because Evelyn is so full of passion for Be My Koorda and so willing to work with other organisations.
Be My Koorda has been featured with Coloured Spaghetti, a TV show that is inclusive of kids of all abilities, on an episode of The Couch TV in April.
Evelyn was also featured in an article in the Southern Gazette Community Newspaper, after being nominated for a Local Heroes Award – winning could mean a $10,000 grant!
In February, Connect Groups funded Be My Koorda to host a parent’s retreat in Bunbury over a weekend which included mindfulness activities, basket weaving, art and more. In March, Be My Koorda families went on their first cultural camp at Landsdale farm school.
Be My Koorda also now has a connection with Cahoots, previously known as Kids Camps Inc. Says Jess Karlsson, Chief Executive Officer; "In March 2018, Cahoots worked together with Be My Koorda to pilot our first cultural family camp. We’re now expanding our services to provide regular Cahoots cultural camps for Aboriginal families, and have opened an office in South West WA to deliver these camps."
At the moment, Be My Koorda is a small group that meets monthly for a parent’s morning tea and a yarn where all children; those with disabilities and their young carer siblings, are welcome. The group usually meet somewhere on the Armadale train line, since that’s the area where most people are engaging from. Young Carers WA are working with Be My Koorda to find a regular venue.
Be My Koorda does have a bus, through Uniting Care West, for transport. This was featured in an article in the Canning Times.
It’s Evelyn’s big dream to have a big brothers and sisters mentor program and their own respite house.
Evelyn says it’s important that Aboriginal parent carers start having conversations.
The NDIS is rolling out in WA and it’s about the individual; not parents, the individual (with the disability). We need to start having conversations. We need to sit down and work it out together. NDIS is about planning for our kid’s future and setting goals.
Be My Koorda is a great place for Aboriginal parents of someone with a disability to talk to other parents that are going through the same thing and to find out more about other events happening for their families. “You never know unless you try.”