CREATING beauty in her front garden was one of the first changes Shannon Bundock made after completing the Aboriginal Women's Healing Program last year.
The Goonellabah local and her close friend Skye McAuslan said their lives had been so greatly changed by the program they now wanted to encourage more women to get involved.
"It made an impact on my whole family," Shannon said. "I've learned boundaries and have gotten stronger. I pulled my socks up and so did my partner and now he's quit drinking.
"For me, it was about learning how to live together in a better way. Now I'm moving onto better things for my family and children."
The 10 week program, run by Interrelate Family Centres and YMCA, is open to any woman who has an investment in the Aboriginal community.
Interrelate's Aboriginal Community Development Officer Mereki said when the program started last year it was about healthy eating and exercise, but it changed in response to the participants' wants.
"A big part of it was about raising self-esteem," Mereki said.
"The women gain self-empowerment through learning different teachings such as mindfulness, breathing and being in the present.
"Aboriginal people suffer from trans- and inter-generational trauma and a lot of the mindset we need to change comes from the way we were brought up. We need to break the old patterns and cycles of thinking.
"Everybody has the capacity to change and live a happy and successful life. As Aboriginal women, we need to be proud of who we are, despite other circumstances."
Skye said a mother's life could get hectic and stressful every day.
"I've learned some tools to help me achieve calm and change my mindset," Skye said.
"Rather than making negative choices, I now make making positive ones. We all support each other and I've made a safe and happy environment for my family and children."
Shannon said the program had brought people closer together.
"Going to the group was good; it helped me to stop and take a breath.
"I don't get aggressive now. Before, when I was angry, I could have potentially hurt others or myself... but now I have the tools to control it and I don't get angry.
"I feel proud, instead of reacting a certain way."
Not only have Shannon and Skye changed the way they think, they have learned new skills through art and clay workshops offered in the program, and now have dreams that involve making art a business.
They have taken the knowledge they have learned into their communities and are ready to become mentors and start their own groups to help other women.
The program will run throughout the year and childcare is provided, as is transport to and from the venue.
For more information, phone Interrelate on 66232750.