By Anna Campbell
On a Saturday in June, I joined the Indigenous Marathon Foundation – Mitchelton RAW walk and run group, for a reconciliation parkrun at Mitchelton.
There were around 15 or so walkers and runners taking part, and everyone was incredibly supportive and encouraging. Along the way, we chatted about IMF RAW and its impact on the community.
“IMF RAW was established in 2011 as a grass roots, community- led impact program” says Leesa Watego, co-founder of Mitchelton RAW. “It aims to address chronic disease by normalising running and walking within Indigenous communities and provides a free, inclusive and safe environment for individuals to flourish and feel supported in. “
“We just cheer each other on” says IMF Raw participant Michelle, “We celebrate reaching the end of the walk or run and achieving our personal best and crossing the line together at whatever pace is the key to support and camaraderie.”
“The Mitchelton group has been run by volunteer run leaders for over five years”, say coach and group leader Toni. “We provide support and flexible programs to support community members”.
“The reason I became a coach is for other people” says Helen. Leesa agrees, knowing that crossing the line is important, “It is a systems approach, where nobody is left behind”.
The approach is clearly working. IMF RAW is currently operational in 40+ communities across Australia, with over 60 accredited running coaches, volunteers and local leaders within these communities. They provide their groups with leadership in running and walking training, nutritional advice and social support. The IMF also coordinates the annual IMF RAW National Championships Event.
“This is the special event for the IMF RAW network” says Leesa. “Each year, 200+ community members come together in a celebration of health, fitness, wellbeing and culture. “
In collaboration with the IMF, there are regular national events that are celebrated right across the IMF RAW network, including International Women’s Day and NAIDOC. Even during COVID lock downs the Mitchelton RAW group continued to be active by offering online training sessions and staying connected.
Milly is a Manager in early childhood education with the Institute of Urban Indigenous Health (IUIH) which supports families to access formal early learning programs. One of her favourite places to walk is in the nearby Bunya Conservation Park. Raniet loves to walk in Mt Coot-tha, but also loves the local walk at Mitchelton.
“Some places have cultural significance to Aboriginal and Torres Strait’s people and should be respected and sometimes avoided” says Leesa. “But it’s all about knowing the land you’re on and paying respect.”
“IMF is a group where everyone is welcome and everyone is welcomed back. There is no shame. We just encourage each other to keep going”
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Anna Campbell is the Executive Officer for Queensland Walks.
Anna is passionate about walking for all people and making urban environments desirable, accessible and inclusive for all walkers so more people will be encouraged to walk, run, roll or stroll.