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Forum helps youth take charge of their destiny

Key points about the IWC Indigenous Youth Forum

Step 1: Preparation work – Between 30 and 40 Youth engaged in Skills Development, Leadership Development, Healthy Lifestyle education through IWC events, groups and sessions.

Step 2: Brainstorming session held with Indigenous youth from key Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families. Role models put in place to share their stories of hope, and provide ongoing mentoring.

Step 3: Sessions to be held with primary and high school students across the region, and with disengaged youth.

Step 4: Youth brought together for action planning session.

Step 5: Framework finalised and implemented.

IT’S a forum like no other. One that draws on more than a year’s dedicated work to date by IWC Support Workers and a counsellor with Aboriginal youth.

A forum that spans weeks and months, stretching into the heart of our region’s key Aboriginal family groups, schools and informal networks.

“The IWC Indigenous Youth Forum 2018 is not just a one-off gathering, but is taking a staged approach,” said Lee Hammond, who heads the IWC’s Youth Program.

IWC is the leading Aboriginal community-controlled health and wellbeing organisation in the region, with more than 93% of Indigenous peoples accessing one or more of its wide range of services. These include health and medical, family and community programs and initiatives.

“The work to deliver this Youth Forum started more than a year ago to provide Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander youth with a real voice around the services and support in our region.

We have been working with a strong group of between 30 and 40 Indigenous youth for more than a year now, helping to build their skills and self-esteem,” said Lee.

“This work has included Skills Development training, a Leadership Camp and the establishment of IWC Boys’ and Girls’ Groups, which sit alongside our Intergenerational Group of Traditional Owners and Elders.

“It has all led to this point. We are now holding a cross-community Youth Forum which has been designed to give our children, teens and young adults a real voice. We are asking our youth, what does healthy, happy and fulfilled look like to you? And how can we help you achieve this?

Lee said: “It is a fact that the environment in which many of our youth are growing up can be extremely tough. There is intergenerational unemployment, alcohol and substance abuse, risk of homelessness and high levels of poverty.

“Our community needs to develop a service delivery framework around youth empowerment that will create sustainable positive change, in line with IWC’s holistic whole-of-person, whole-of-life model of care.”

On 7 February, the Youth Forum officially began with an intense brainstorming session.

“Of the youth who took part, some are working hard at school, some have disengaged, others are keen to move into the workforce

“They worked with IWC’s Youth and Families Wellbeing programs to identify the support networks, pathways and skills they need to gain a brighter future not just for themselves, but for all youth in our communities.”

The brainstorming session, held over a full day, focused on issues and solutions and involved motivational talks from six Aboriginal role models all of whom have jobs, a stable home life and a supportive peer and family network.

“The role models spoke to the youth frankly at the session, explaining that there are supports here for them, and other youth just like them, but we need to them bring their ideas and solutions to the table. They need to take ownership of the pathways, and we as IWC and the community are here to walk alongside them,” said Lee.

“From there, we all started working together to get to the bottom of why youth are disengaging, and how we as a community can support them into a happy, healthy and productive life.”

The next step is to take the basic framework out to the community, she said.

“We will be holding sessions with primary and high school students across the region, as well as sitting down with disengaged youth and asking them: Have we got this right? Is this what you see as the solution?

“From there, we will hold a second intensive session at which Indigenous youth will come together to work out how the actions that have been agreed on can be achieved. IWC will be walking alongside them all the way.

Lee added: “The world from the perspective of an Indigenous youth is very different to way it is perceived by an adult.

“We have already been told that the framework we deliver must have cultural responsiveness and education embedded into it, skills development and leadership at its heart, and include real pathways towards a positive, proactive life. That is not our vision – it is the vision of the youth who have so far contributed to this framework. Our role, as IWC, is to help youth in our community achieve their goals and transform their health and wellbeing for the highest good of all.”