What do you enjoy most about your role?
What I enjoy about my role is preventing the gap rather than closing the gap, with a sense of optimism for Aboriginal young people. Our Cultural Support team works with every area of Youth Off The Streets to ensure the rights and needs of young people from diverse cultural backgrounds are reflected in all of our services and programs. I enjoy seeing the potential unleashed in our young people, flourishing in life, and being strong and deadly in culture.
What is the most challenging aspect of your role?
The Aboriginal youth suicide rate remains four times that of other Australian youth. It is currently estimated that up to 40% of Aboriginal youth (aged 13–17) will experience some form of mental health problem within their lifetime. Of greater concern is the evidence that indicates that Aboriginal youth fail to access mental health services commensurate with this need. This is due, in part, to the characteristically monocultural nature of service delivery of existing services.
Youth Off The Streets has employed a team of passionate people to help their local Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community better manage social and emotional wellbeing. The team is made up of Aboriginal Counsellors, Aboriginal Mental Health Workers, and Aboriginal Elders. We are greatly in need of finishing the unfinished business for Aboriginal young people: that of health equality.
How has the coronavirus pandemic impacted your program?
The COVID-19 pandemic has disproportionately impacted Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and their families. Additional stress resulting from economic hardship, health issues, isolation, increased demands of home schooling, has had both short and long-term repercussions on wellbeing.
The technological divide is a further concern, less access to technology impacts all communities experiencing higher levels of social and economic disadvantage. The challenges to meet the costs of purchasing and maintaining internet, computers, devices, and telecommunications are significant. For larger families, having adequate technology for every child is a particular challenge.
Youth Off The Streets has provided computer equipment and online programs that assist in alleviating some of the pressure currently endured by Aboriginal young people and their communities during the pandemic. Our online programs aim to create and promote fun and focuses on physical, mental, emotional and spiritual wellbeing.
How is Future Generation helping your program to address these challenges?
Future Generation Australia’s support has assisted Youth Off The Streets with the implementation of Dr Tracey Westerman resources within our programs. Dr Westerman has developed nine unique psychological tests, unique Aboriginal mental health assessment models, and community intervention programs. She is one of the most in-demand clinical trainers in Australia. These resources will ensure our assessment and support for Aboriginal young people will be culturally appropriately and effective.
Do you have any other updates from Youth Off The Streets?
COVID-19 has shown us that community is more important than ever. Partnerships that enable us to foster a sense of community are critical to our ongoing success. We wish to thank Future Generation Fund Managers and investors for assisting these young people in a better future.
About Youth Off The Streets
Established by Father Chris Riley in 1991, Youth Off The Streets works for young people who face challenges of homelessness, drug dependency and are recovering from abuse. The organisation aims to see young people leave their care drug free, with a high school education, living skills and a job.