Kyiesha, Luwarna, Kiarra, and Kythera Cohen-Siemsen – Connected, Strong, Inspirational
These four proud Indigenous women remain connected to their land and culture, giving them the strength to support others and make a difference in their community.
They have already had to endure too much loss at their young ages, but losing their grandmother, the last-born elder on Stuart Island, had the most significant impact.
Her love and guidance, along with their close and powerful family bond, have created unwavering resilience in Kyiesha, Luwarna, Kiarra, and Kythera to encourage others to speak up, seek help, and get through loss and trauma.
Identity and land are important; Kiarra explains, “Being Aboriginal is who we are, our connection to land and our totems and our values and our beliefs are always tied here.
“We’re always at the beach, we’re always having fun. We’re always hunting, gathering or spending time with family … it provides a sense of belonging. It’s a part of who we are.”
Growing up in Armidale, the family moved to Nambucca Valley when they were young to look after their grandmother.
Her death had a profound effect, and for Kythera, “It’s felt like a hole that’s not going to heal.”
“Stuart Island is a place that we all go, no matter what event… We’d all just have a barbecue and sit around and just catch up, and it was her final resting place for us where we finally said goodbye.
“So it’s a very significant place for all of us and anyone whose heart she touched.”
Luwarna says, “I think we were so lucky to have someone like her, you know, she was always so proud of you, no matter what you did.”
Kyiesha is working as a student learning support officer at Macksville High School and helps young people struggling with school or dealing with grief, trauma or an unsafe home life.
She says, “You develop the right relationships with the kids that do have trauma, and you find ways for them to cope and try to get them active in a way in the community, getting them involved in more community and school events to show that they have something to go to out of home instead of being stuck in a house where it may not be a safe environment for them.
“For young people grieving with loss or any trauma. It’s really important to speak about it and deal with it in a way and get the proper help through your support systems, to help you give you a guided path on what you should do, like telling yourself that it will be okay and that you will get through this.”
You can now watch Kyiesha, Luwarna, Kiarra, and Kythera’s story and other stories from local heroes and the full feature documentary film, Inspire U: Stories from the Valley, on our Inspire U project page. We’ll be adding new stories regularly, so come back soon.
Author: Simone Atallah