5 July 2022

Setting goals and dreaming of a bright future for Indigenous youth

| Chriss Buchan
Start the conversation
Women with a phone

Visual Dreaming gives Indigenous youth a place to set goals and connect with support. Photo: Supplied.

Life wasn’t easy for Leanne Sanders, living in Finley and struggling with school.

“I didn’t go past year eight; I didn’t like school,” she said.

At age 19 the Tati Tati, Wadi Wadi and Mutti Mutti woman became a single mum to her son Tyson and struggled with her mental health.

But Leanne was able to turn her challenges into fortitude and now works to help young Indigenous people find strength in culture and connection.

At 21 she enrolled at CSU to study a Bachelor of Health Science – Mental Health.

“It’s where I met my mentor Athol Boney,” she explained.

“Athol had a profound effect on me and I was privileged to have the opportunity to work with him in the Indigenous Student Services, Ngungulana.”

The tragic loss of her cousin after a battle with mental health inspired her to create a tool to help Indigenous youth.

“I wanted to create something to help other people connect to the Country and have a loving positive community for support like I had in my dark times,” she said.

READ ALSO Get up! Stand up! Show up! Here’s what NAIDOC Week 2022 is all about

Now the successful creator of the “Visual Dreaming” app, Leanne is achieving her lifelong ambition of creating an online wellbeing platform.

“When my dream started, I had a vision board in my room to make an impact on the world with an app,” she said.

Based on visual goal setting, the app allows young people to connect to Elders and professionals and improve their understanding of Indigenous spirituality, culture and education.

“Although my life still involves many challenges, I have strength in knowing I am not alone and I feel strong cultural connections,” she said.

“I would never have had this if I hadn’t had the Elders teaching me Yinymarr (go slowly, respectfully and gently). I know how life-changing it is to learn the Wiradjuri language and share in the different aspects of cultural connections.

“It gives me pride and identity and the Wiradjuri Elders have given me amazing support.”

Knowing they have the support of a network in a safe space, young people can log on and set goals around spiritual and physical wellbeing and cultural, social, emotional and personal skills with photos to provide visual impact.

“Visual Dreaming is close to my heart. I want to pass on what has been one of the biggest learning curves and the ultimate gift in my life,” she said.

“To do this requires supporting all youths across the nation to dream, see what’s possible and reach for the stars.”

woman with phone

Leanne had a vision to reach the world with her app. Photo: Supplied.

Two years ago journalist Stan Grant (Jr.) hosted the Visual Dreaming launch and endorsed the value of the initiative in the prevention, treatment and promotion of well-being and mental health in Indigenous communities.

“Visual Dreaming is giving us a new way of being able to see ourselves, a new way of being able to heal and a new story to tell that you can break the cycle of that intergenerational trauma,” he said.

“It starts with work like this and the ability to use technology and make a difference in people’s lives.”

With a membership of more than 10,000, Leanne is proud of the way her app has been embraced.

“Connecting youth with their Elders online and supporting their overall wellbeing through counselling, IT and goal setting, it leads them into finding their identity and becoming accountable,” she said.

“It’s been proven to help adolescents communicate and benefit from this service. Its overwhelming success has led to it being worldwide.”

READ ALSO Historic corroboree dances for the past, present and the future

Leanne is now working on the Elders and Youth program “Butterfly Dreaming” where members can meet weekly to learn the Wiradjuri Language, care for Country and form ongoing mentoring relationships.

“This model is more positive in establishing their cultural identity and we target them according to age,” she explained.

“Eight to eleven is caterpillar, 12 to 16 is cocoon and 16 plus, they go into butterfly.”

Participants set goals in areas like spiritual and physical wellbeing, cultural, social, emotional and personal milestones and progress to bringing in their “Dream Team”.

With goals established they are then assisted through a network of mentors and support organisations helping them learn to drive and engage with language and physical and mental health.

Looking ahead Leanne is still cultivating her vision and wants to adapt “Butterfly Dreaming” to include younger children.

She also wants to create more videos for her international members.

“I believe if you have a goal and someone believes in you, anything is possible,” she said.

For more information on Visual Dreaming memberships visit the Visual Dreaming Facebook or Visual Dreaming website or download the iPhone app in the App Store.

Start the conversation

Daily Digest

Want the best Riverina news delivered daily? Every day we package the most popular Riverina stories and send them straight to your inbox. Sign-up now for trusted local news that will never be behind a paywall.

By submitting your email address you are agreeing to Region Group's terms and conditions and privacy policy.