Exercise Right Week: Creating safe spaces for community

Creating safe and welcoming spaces for community to engage and invest in their own health, fitness and wellbeing.


The team at Sonder are celebrating Exercise Right Week from Monday 24 – Sunday 30 May 2021, and this year’s theme is ‘Exercise Changes Lives.’

Rikki Wilson, proud Aboriginal woman, Personal Trainer and Facilitator of Sonder’s PACE Program, shares how exercise has influenced positive change in her life.

As a child, Rikki grew up in an active household. ‘Both my parents played sport for as long as I could remember, so being at sporting stadiums and local sporting events was pretty common to me.’

Things changed towards the end of high school when Rikki began to develop anxiety and depression, making it much more difficult to keep up the motivation to stay active or participate in social activities like sports.


‘I used dance as a way of healing and to help calm a racing mind.’

With her family and friends supporting her, Rikki found dance and this helped connect her to culture and improve her mental health and wellbeing.

‘Thankfully I have great supports and a strong connection to culture.’

Dancing eventually led to her taking up other sports, but physical activity was put on hold again when she had her first child in 2011.

Women’s bodies can change drastically during and after pregnancy.

Like many women, Rikki gained weight after her first child was born. Her self-esteem was greatly affected, inducing poor eating habits.

In 2015, Rikki enrolled in the Australian Institute of Fitness and with newfound knowledge, her passion for helping others was reignited and she regained the confidence to look after herself.


‘I was able to identify the gaps within my own community.’

During her studies, Rikki became aware of the complex barriers Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander people face within the health and wellbeing space, including having the confidence to attend fitness groups without judgement or discrimination.

With her own lived experience, skills and knowledge, Rikki was determined to help others ‘adopt healthier and more active lifestyles, break cycles and create healthier and happier ways of living’.

In order to do this, she knew she needed to create safe and welcoming spaces for community to engage and invest in their own health, fitness and wellbeing.


A new focus ‘to support, inspire and mentor the Aboriginal community to invest in holistic health and wellbeing, with culture at its core.’

Rikki has since been engaged with numerous community-led healthy lifestyle programs, particularly for women, and has started her own business in personal training for Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander community members.

She has performed Aboriginal contemporary dance on national and international stages and successfully ran the New York City Marathon in 2018.

The benefits of exercise for Rikki’s health and wellbeing have been significant.

For me, physical activity, whether it comes in the form of expression through dance, running along the beach, being on country or meditating at the beach, has been a pivotal part in maintaining a happy and balanced life.

‘I continuously look to challenge myself with gratitude at the core of everything I do.’


‘I am now bringing my skills and passion to the Sonder team and loving every minute of it.’

At Sonder, Rikki continues to educate and support clients through PACE, the Physical Activity & Community Engagement program for Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander people.

PACE is designed to be flexible and individualised, targeting people with a range of ages, different levels of mobility and unique health and wellbeing needs and aspirations.

Throughout the 8-week group program, PACE participants engage in fitness classes and nutrition information sessions. They also practice mindfulness and healing and learn new stress management techniques.

Through PACE, Sonder aims to provide safe spaces where participants can be empowered to make positive changes. Whether it be joining a casual walking group or a fun, fast-paced workout with Rikki, the PACE team welcome anyone who is interested in getting active, socialising with a supportive group of people and learning how to eat well.


Interested in taking steps towards a healthier and happier life?

Here’s Rikki’s tips


Understanding Depression

Think about why you want to make a change.

What do you want for yourself? Do you want to have more energy? Do you want to live healthy and free of illness? Do you want to set the right examples for your children? Do you want to break bad habits that lead to poor health?




Set specific goals.

It is important to set goals so you know exactly what you are working towards (i.e. I will be fit and healthy and run 5km nonstop by the end of May). Write down your goals and keep in view for a daily reminder and to hold yourself accountable.




Reach out.

If you are struggling with motivation or don’t feel confident with where to start, reach out! Ask a friend to join you or hold you accountable.

Check out YouTube or local health forums. Finding your tribe is also essential to staying on track with your goals because having positive influences around can make you feel inspired to keep going. A great way to step outside your comfort zone is to join a local social sporting team or attend community events.



Be consistent.

Taking up new challenges for ourselves can be exciting and also uncomfortable to begin with. Sometimes we can feel overwhelmed with all the things we have to be keeping on top of and this is where it is common for most people to revert back to old habits.

We need to be realistic and always kind to ourselves. Small daily tasks are useful and easy to accomplish; it could be as small as taking the stairs instead of the lift, or getting off a few stops before your usual commute. There are so many different ways we can incorporate fun to stay on track of our goals, and it’s important to focus on what works for you!

Have faith in yourself and make sure you build relationships with people you trust for support; whether it’s a close friend or personal trainer. Don’t be afraid of self-talk because what you see in yourself holds the most value!


Start making changes to your lifestyle habits

Joining the PACE program is easy! You can refer yourself into the program via the online referral form, available at sonder.net.au/pace

Alternatively, a health professional can complete a referral on your behalf.

To be eligible for the program, you must:

  • Identify as Aboriginal and or/Torres Strait Islander;
  • Be aged 18 years or over and;
  • Live in the council areas of Playford, Salisbury, Tea Tree Gully, Port Adelaide Enfield, Charles Sturt, West Torrens, Holdfast Bay, Marion, Mitcham or Onkaparinga.

To learn more about PACE, visit sonder.net.au/pace or call (08) 8209 0700


This activity is funded by the Australian Government Department of Health.