Gurung Wellama

Strengthening cultural identity and connection for Aboriginal children and young people who engage with Barnardos

What is Barnardos Gurung Wellama?

Barnardos is committed to approaching culture with humility, respect and curiosity. That is why we created Barnardos Aboriginal Cultural Unit, called “Gurung Wellama”, which means ‘child comes back

Gurung Wellama is here to ensure that Aboriginal children are connected within their culture, family and community. The Gurung Wellama team builds organisational cultural competence to ensure that Aboriginal children and young people at Barnardos feel safe, connected and engaged. We support the carers of our Aboriginal children to provide culturally appropriate care through our work with our Out of Home Care and Safety and Prevention teams.

Our vision for Gurung Wellama

Gurung Wellama and Barnardos
Play Video about Gurung Wellama and Barnardos

Barnardos Australia acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of the land on which we live and work. We acknowledge Elders past and present, and acknowledge the children because they are our future. We acknowledge that this land was and always will be Aboriginal land.

At Barnardos, we believe that culture is one of the most important things in a child’s life. We are dedicated to ensuring that children are culturally connected within their family and community. That is why we created the Barnardos Aboriginal cultural unit called Gurung Wellama.

When we work alongside Aboriginal children and their families, we apply a cultural lens to the work we do. This means to acknowledge and build an understanding of the existing cultural connections and stories from our ancestors, land, waters, and communities of the world’s oldest living culture.

Gurung Wellama supports Barnardos employees to work with Aboriginal families and communities to ensure that their child is able to grow strong in their cultural identity. This can be done through building and maintaining connections to their land, country, music, dance, art, and other traditional ceremonies and practices.

By embedding a cultural lens, we maintain strong relationships and connections with our Aboriginal families. We ensure the children we work alongside have a strong sense of self that is supported by all different people in their lives.

We are committed to approaching culture with humility, respect, and curiosity. This is our vision for Gurung Wellama


Empowering the voice of Aboriginal children in our programs

A strong sense of connection to community and culture is essential to empower Aboriginal children and our Stretch Reconciliation Action Plan strives to keep Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and young people safe with family, community and culture.
The below video celebrates 10 year old Jack, a Kamilaroi boy in kinship care with Barnardos who has designed a culturally specific case planning tool to amplify children’s voices in decision-making and connect them to culture.


In this video, Jack explains “I wanted to do this so that other kids like me know they aren’t alone.”
Jack talks about having his voice heard
Play Video about Jack talks about having his voice heard

That translates to… Hi this is Birpai land. Always was, always will be.

I did this because I felt like I was always made for something bigger. I want to be known as a good Aboriginal person. 

This one is personally my favourite, and I spent a lot of time on this one. So, I would say it’s about exploring what you can do and stop worrying about what you can’t do. Focus on you and not others. 

This one here is my family and how much I do love them. The dots in the top corner are my family. The biggest ones are my dad, and the smaller ones are my brothers and sisters. There’s also my mother, who I love very much.

Well, I think it’s good because to know they’re not alone, and their voice is loud. They should be heard as well.


We are committed to approaching culture with respect, curiosity and humility


Barnardos Statement of Commitment

Barnardos recognises that social justice is not possible in Australia without justice for our First Nations people. 
We commit to the ongoing work of decolonisation to ensure that First Nations children can grow up strong in their families with the knowledge and understanding of their cultural rights. Barnardos promotes and celebrates First Nations peoples rich, unique and continuing culture and connection to country. We take responsibility for creating and maintaining a culturally safe and supportive environment for every person who accesses our services.

Barnardos acknowledges the suffering as a result of the Stolen Generations and the ongoing overrepresentation of
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in statutory out-of-home care. As a non-Indigenous organisation in this space, we commit to working alongside First Nations families, communities and organisations in a respectful way to break to cycle of disadvantage and build capacity so that First Nations children can thrive.

Reconciliation Statement

Stretch Reconciliation Action Plan

Reconciliation Action Plan Guide


“Gurung Wellama” artwork

Artist: Joanne Cassady
Title: Gurung Wellama
Year: 2022
Medium: Acrylic on canvas

Barnardos Australia commissioned First Nations artist Joanne Cassady of ‘Balgarra Designs’ to design the artwork and brand for Gurung Wellama, Barnardos’ Aboriginal Cultural Unit. Gurung Wellama, means ‘Child comes back’ in Gadigal language. It is uniquely symbolic of Barnardos work with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and families and is an artwork that is relatable across different country and mob. This beautiful artwork also features in our Stretch RAP 2023-2025. The blue curves around the semicircle represent people gathering together. The curves with one line next to it, represents a woman and the curve with two lines represent a man. The smaller curves represent children. The semi-circles represent a gathering place usually a campfire, waterhole or campsite in this case it is home. It represents ‘at home’ and ‘outside of home’. The blue, aqua and white dots throughout the middle represent peace and harmony flowing through, giving peace to children coming back.

Joanne Cassady is a self-taught artist and mother of six, with five sons and one daughter as well as being a doting grandmother. Joanne
is a descendant of the Wiradjuri and Yorta Yorta Nations located in NSW and Victoria. Joanne’s Wiradjuri totem is the goanna and her Yorta Yorta totem is the turtle, which gives her inspiration to recreate throughout her artwork.

As a professional artist, Joanne utilises her skills as a means of education for cultural awareness with both adults and children. This allows opportunities to share her personal experiences and her culture in art workshops and art therapy. Joanne was born and raised in Sydney NSW and grew up in the suburbs of Redfern and Waterloo. She faced many challenges from a very young age, choosing not to
become a victim. Choosing art, its meaning to her as an artist is deeper than paint on canvas. It tells of her stories, her culture and language. Joanne’s art is as contemporary as she is.

Balgarra Designs is 100% Aboriginal owned and operated by Joanne Cassady. The word ‘Balgarra’ comes from the Wiradjuri language which means “to emit sparks” – to emit sparks, the beginning of something new, to ignite a fire. Through this symbolic meaning Joanne hopes to ignite a fire of understanding, education, cultural awareness and unification through her art to the world.