We’re keeping vulnerable young people busy and out of trouble this summer

22 Dec 2017

As the temperature begins to go into the high 40s, there is a focus on ensuring that our young ones are enjoying a safe summer in Bourke.

‘Our young children are our focus in Bourke, and we have a holistic approach to address their needs and aspirations in life’ Photograph: Supplied

As the temperature begins to go into the high 40s, there is a focus on ensuring that our young ones are enjoying a safe summer in Bourke.

We all know that the summer holiday period is an extremely risky period for vulnerable young people in our community. Most of the population retreats to the safe haven of air conditioning or out of Bourke while youth services and community members are ramping up their efforts to engage with young people.

This is an evidence based decision that the community have made based on the story that data tells us about how to create a safe summer for everyone. Throughout previous school holidays in 2017 it became clear that when there were structured free programs for our young people, crime rates were low, and when there wasn’t, there was an increase in youth crime.

There has been a huge effort and commitment from members of the Maranguka Justice Reinvestment Project in Bourke to ensure we do whatever it takes to support our young Aboriginal people this summer to stay safe. The Maranguka backbone team, PCYC, Youth Off The Streets, Birrang Enterprise Development Company Ltd, Family Referral Service and family and community services have been part of the planning of a coordinated summer holiday program at no cost to families as well as securing a large number of pool passes for young Aboriginal people and their families. We want to keep them out of the river and out of trouble with the law.

The Maranguka Justice Reinvestment Project is part of the Maranguka Community Hub. Maranguka, meaning “caring for others” in Ngemba language, empowers community to coordinate the right mix and timing of services through an Aboriginal community owned and led, multi-disciplinary team working in partnership with relevant government and non-government agencies. This is where the working groups have been established to carry out work identified in strategies established by the Bourke Tribal Council.

The Maranguka Justice Reinvestment Project is different to standard partnership models. It has a collective impact framework to move the community beyond the existing service delivery model, creating better-coordinated support for vulnerable families needing support. Through a backbone team the work complements existing services as well as providing better pathways and facilitated assistance for the Aboriginal community

Other strategies have been developed as initiatives in the 8-18 year old working group to help support our young Aboriginal people. We’ve developed the Our Place program, which is an alternative learning program for our young Aboriginal men who are given the opportunity to learn in a different environment at Bourke High School and not in a traditional classroom. This model is based on BackTrack in Armidale. The Our Place program focuses on teaching young people literacy and numeracy through learning skills such as fencing, mustering or even getting their white card.

Some of the Our Place participants are part of the Maranguka Youth Advisory Council which gives a voice to young Aboriginal people in Bourke. They are often consulted around issues that will affect them. They are also able to shed light on what they want to see happen in their school holidays.

The daily check-ins with the Maranguka Hub staff and Bourke police local area commander Greg Moore and crime manager Rod Grant demonstrate that young people are a priority group that we focus on. We want to keep them safe and diverted away from crime. We look at any support that is required for their family and the broader community who in the previous 24 hours have come under the attention of police and need immediate support.

Our young children are our focus in Bourke, and we have a holistic approach to address their needs and aspirations in life. This work will continue over this summer holiday period. Children are our future, and we need to do everything we can to support them so that they can reach their full potential.

This article was first published by Guardian Australia on 20 December as part of their ongoing partnership with IndigenousX

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