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Great Southern mentoring program for at-risk youth receives $1.27 million Federal Government boost

Up to 80 at-risk youths in the Great Southern are set to benefit from a $1.27 million Federal Government funding boost for a culturally focused mentorship program.

Palmerston Association, in partnership with Impact Services, will deliver the Moorditj Benang Solid Futures program over two years to engage Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 12-24 at risk of interacting with the criminal justice system.

Palmerston Association acting manager Sachin Khairnar said the new initiative was built on the organisation’s successful Bush Classrooms program with an added focus on training and employment pathways for older youths.

Through group activities and one-on-one support from an experienced youth worker, the Bush Classrooms program aims to help 12-16 year-olds re-engage with traditional education or vocational activities.

Participants aged 16-24 will take part in new Solid Foundations workshops, where they will receive culturally specific mentoring to help transition into the workplace, or find a path to training or employment.

“The Bush Classrooms program is based on the concept that the Aboriginal culture is one of the world’s longest surviving cultures dating back thousands of years, with many of its traditions and practices laying a foundation for its longevity and existence today,” Mr Khairnar said.

“As a result of colonisation and many hardships faced since, the Aboriginal culture has seen a drastic breakdown in the ‘passing down of knowledge’ and culture from Elders to younger generations.

“This exchange previously enabled Aboriginal people to understand what it meant to be Aboriginal, their values and beliefs, roles within society and learn many of the traditional practices to help develop younger generations.

“Palmerston’s cultural framework includes trauma and healing aware practices, acknowledging historical, structural, and cumulative impacts of past policies, and a belief that there is strength in culture, and supporting people to find their cultural identity.”

O’Connor MP Rick Wilson said the program was an innovative delivery model.

“For participants up to 16 years of age, the prime focus will be re-engaging in education, and for those beyond 17 years, the focus will be work readiness,” Mr Wilson said.

“The Federal Government is backing community-led solutions to crime — to ensure all residents can go about their lives free from violence, harassment and anti-social behaviour.”

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