By Genevieve Waldie
Former high school teacher, Jessica Brown’s passion has always been assisting those falling through the cracks of the education and welfare systems. For 27 years she has worked to support the marginalised in society.
Ms Brown, a former New South Wales “Woman of the Year”, has launched her latest social venture: The Warrior Woman Foundation, supporting young women (aged 15-25) transitioning to independent living.
The program focuses on education and connection with mentoring and peer support.
“It’s so important for Australians to develop self-esteem and self-efficacy skills at a young age, so they are well-equipped for their transition into adulthood,” says Ms Brown.
“Unfortunately, this transition can be difficult for many, as thousands of young people in Australia leave out of home care at 18, with 50% of these care leavers ending up homeless, unemployed, in jail, or becoming a new parent within a year.
“Often, they have lived through multiple traumas and disruptive events by the time they begin this transition, and these challenges impact their emotional and social development.”
Frequently, a marginalised woman has little or no support network, and Ms Brown saw the enormous potential benefits of a mentor-mentee relationship with a network of stable role model. This system connecting helper and helped was formed to bring minds together to find ways to support young women.
“I strongly believe young women need a safe and welcoming space, so that they can share, learn, heal and grow,” says Ms Brown.
“We endeavour to work in collaboration with as many communities and business leaders in each local government area to strengthen support services for young women.
“We are mothers, business owners, community leaders, and advocates for the advancement of women in Australia. By empowering marginalised young women to become strong independent warriors capable of taking their place in the world, we are strengthening Australian communities at large.”
Based on the three principals of the “Self Determination Theory”, their flagship program – The Young Warrior Woman Program, is designed to reduce the stress involved in leaving care, learning to live autonomously, and preparing for adulthood.
Each “Young Warrior” (mentee) is supported by a group of mentors who are called “Wise Warriors”. These women are stable role models from the local community who provide support and impart the wisdom of their life experience.
The Young Warriors are also supported by a group of peers called “Kindred Warriors”. These are young women with their own experience in foster or state care who have successfully transitioned into adulthood. Kindred Warriors bring real-life stories and valuable advice to share and support.
“Historically, the word warrior means “a brave or experienced soldier or fighter”. For us, this represents the brave young women who put their hands up for help, and the women who put their hands up to fight for their advancement.
“Today, the word warrior is frequently used to describe a person who is very strong and does not give up easily. Coincidentally, “tenacity” is one of our foundation’s values, as we simply do not give up on the young women who need our help.”
For more information, or to donate, visit https://www.warriorwoman.org.au/.