"Stronger Families Stronger Youth Team"
Stronger Families / Stronger Youth Team Chris Standing: Good morning. My name is Chris Standing. I’m 19 years old and come from Macquarie Fields in New South Wales. In the next 10 minutes you’re going to hear personal and life changing experiences. CORA. What is CORA? CORA is Community, Ownership, Responsibility, Actions. In doing so we are breaking the cycle. What is the cycle? The cycle includes domestic violence, family poverty, physical, sexual and mental abuse, and many more. Well, I was a part of that cycle and I’ll tell you how I broke it. This is my story. Two years ago I was involved in an incident that rocked Sydney – the Macquarie Fields riots. I was the one in front of the police throwing the rocks, I was roaming the streets doing crime. I was arrested. I’m now a trainee youth worker and a member of the National Youth Roundtable. I’m all for breaking the cycle. I don’t want to see young people grow up going down the path I was on. I grew up with the wrong role models. I’m now putting back in what I took out of my community in Macquarie Fields by being a positive role model. Rosemary Tabuai: Good morning ladies and gentlemen. My name is Rosemary Tabuai. I’m a Torres Strait Islander. I’m a Saibai Laig woman living in Cairns. The other day I got a phone call from my 15 year old aunty, so she’s my Mum’s younger sister, telling me that her parents were having a fight physically and verbally and she didn’t have anywhere to go. So in Cairns usually she’d call me and I’d take her in and I’d help her. And I was devastated because I wasn’t there to help her and I felt helpless. I didn’t know what to tell her. Where could she go? So what did my aunty need? She needed a safe place where she could go. She needed a house. She need shelter to go to sleep for the night. I was devastated because she didn’t have anywhere to go so she roamed the streets at night. At 15 she didn’t have anywhere so she was just roaming the streets until she felt it was safe to go home. So I think that … I suggest that there should be a safe house in my local community. And that’s where CORA comes in. Community, Ownership, Responsibility and Action. The communities need to be aware of our young people and of our problems. Our community needs to take ownership and it’s the community’s responsibility to acknowledge the issues. It’s the responsibility of our government to put our communities. Together we can take action and action will see change. Kaesahne Dean: Hi. My name is Kaesahne Dean. I’m a keen 15 year old Karrijardi girl with a Yawuru background. I was born and bred in Broome to be as strong and proud as I am to be standing before you today. I’m going to give a it of an understanding to you about my lifestyle and how passionate I am to provide help and make a change. I was raised around violence in a house open as the streets. My parents gambled a lot and food and rent was never the first priority. As I was growing up my Mum started to breed a lot and she gave birth to a lot of younger siblings. I was very excited but even more jealous at times. I felt as though I was never under the spotlight until I lost my second sister. It was a lovely feeling having all the attention on me being the oldest girl and the second oldest child. It actually felt as though I was given love and affection. Things went back to normal after a few weeks and I could see my mother still dealing with depression and this started affecting me. A few years down the track just as my parents started coping with the past and trying to move forward my Mum found out she was 8 months pregnant and didn’t even know she was due to give birth in a month’s time. She gave birth to a son and lost him 3 months later. I still wasn’t at an age of understanding so again the cycle of attention was amazing. After moving on my Mum had altogether 11 children. I have raised the last 4 babies and I am currently playing the guardian role. After a few years I started to lose a lot of close family members and realising the true meaning of death. From this moment I started to physically, mentally and socially abuse myself and so did others. I started taking drugs – I blame myself, and then my Mum kicked me out for a week. It was like a living hell – just one week – realising if I’m not going to stay strong for myself then at least do it for my community and my family. When I see youth living on the street it makes me think how they must feel because I learnt a lot from being homeless for 7 days. Changes don’t happen overnight but when they do it’s all worth it. Life is like a roller coaster with unwinding turns. You should learn to bear with it and believe in yourself. I find it a privilege to be here representing my culture and on behalf of my community – the moment that gave me strength to get up and get my voice heard because my friends found out I was coming on this trip and they were excited. They were basically more excited than me and that was a wow factor for them. The words can’t explain how much it meant to have the busloads of peers come to the airport to support me. I made a promise to them that since I can’t bring the Roundtable to the community I’ll bring the community to the Roundtable. And I hope many of you learn from my experience. So getting my community involved is what this is all about to me. Kirby Drew: Hi. My name is Kirby Drew. I came from a broken home. My Mum is a severe alcoholic and has been homeless for many years as a result of her drinking, and it’s been hard watching her slowly kill herself over the years. I have never met my father and I don’t even know who he is. I have a brother a year younger than me and an older one I am currently trying to find who was adopted out as a result of rape. At the age of 10 my younger brother and I were taken off my mother and made wards of the state. We moved through various family members who had their own drug and alcohol / gambling addictions and experienced a great deal of domestic violence. At the age of 15 I decided I had a better chance in this world doing it on my own. Now for a young person at the age of 15 deciding that they are better off on their own without the extra negative influences that family breakdown brought points out how much this can have an affect on a young person. So with the support of the local refuge and youth housing I started living independently. At the age of 16 I was looking after my younger brother but the struggle didn’t stop there. I was faced with my own drug and alcohol addiction problems, major depression and found myself getting into domestic violence relationships. At the age of 17 I tried to commit suicide and luckily was unsuccessful. Then an amazing thing happened. Two days after getting out of hospital – now this may sound a bit funny but it’s true – I met a monk from Thailand in a park. He taught me meditation and a different way of life, changed my attitude and taught me to see the beauty in all things. Now I was lucky. Young people are not going to have the same opportunity as meeting a monk. I am 23 years old and it has taken me 23 years to break the cycle and it has been a hard road and I still have a long road ahead of me. Now what chance do young people have to break their own cycles? Young people need role models. Young people need people to believe in them. And most importantly if young people don’t have the right family upbringing to give them a chance in life who will? Who will take the responsibility? Just think about it. Kelly Bucknall: My name’s Kelly and I’m from Brisbane. When I was 13 I walked out of my family home with my father stating: “You’re a low life piece of shit”, and walked into a life for 5 years of being in state care. After being disconnected from foster families, schools and shelters my life had hit rock bottom. After an abusive foster family I was left at 16 and pregnant. I was told by my school to not return, my child safety worker didn’t return my phone calls, I was kicked out of my foster family and left with nowhere to do. A week after my abortion and in a shelter I was told I didn’t meet the criteria and my time was up. Eventually I got back into an alternative education program. I had somewhere to go during the day but most nights struggled to couch surf, entering shelters, being in the city and the park. A few months before leaving care child safety stepped back in, helped me fill out the paperwork for supportive accommodation and my 18 th birthday arrived. Without the education I received I would not have had the opportunities to survive and overcome the criteria set by our society. Allison Rickards: My name is Allison Rickards and I’m a 25 year old JPET case manager and mother of one from Hobart in Tasmania. I work alongside young people who are experiencing a disconnection from their community. The issues that these young people face are diverse and their experiences are unique to them. Unfortunately they are not unique to the community. The same themes are consistent across the country. Imagine a 15 year old boy who has nowhere to live. His father is in prison, his mother is an IV drug user and his stepfather is physically abusive. He cannot access services in our area as he is under 16 and has no income. Imagine another 15 year old, a young woman this time. She is pregnant with her second child. Her first child is in the care of the department due to her being unable to secure stable accommodation because face it, what landlord is going to rent to a 15 year old with two children on a government benefit? Imagine also a young girl coming to you aged 12 years and 3 months. At 11 years and 9 months she gave birth to her father’s child shunned and ostracised by her community. And imagine having to turn her away from your service as she doesn’t fit the age guidelines? These young people have experienced a family breakdown and their community isn’t equipped with the skills to deal with this. Please don’t go home this evening and think that these young people’s experiences are far removed from your life and something like this will never affect your life. These young people are someone’s son or daughter and your communities are experiencing the same disconnections as theirs. Robyn McKinnon: Good morning. My name is Robyn McKinnon and I’m a youth mentoring program coordinator and sexual assault counsellor in northern Tasmania. This morning you have heard the personal and professional stories of the people in our group. We’re all about stronger families and stronger youth and without that who knows where our communities will go. It sounds like a great idea. What does it look like though? As you’ve heard this morning through our stories family breakdown, domestic violence, drug and alcohol are just some of the causes that increase the risk of poverty and homelessness across Australia. And that’s where CORA comes in. It’s not a concept – it’s a mindset. CORA is about Community, Ownership, Responsibility and Action. It’s about a whole community approach that assists communities to prevent the incidence of homelessness as well as many other issues that are happening within our society. Over this next 10 months our group will investigate the international and national practices in homelessness and some of the amazing early prevention and primary response to this issue. CORA’s vision is to develop community resilience for each person taking up the responsibility, ownership and action to make positive change and to break the cycle. That is our message to you. We will take this journey and consider the issues as we’ve talked about. We will look at shared houses. How will that fit in our communities? Community centres, mentoring of young people – what’s already happening and how we could do it better. We will look at community dinners and activities and the use of SMS text messages that ca n provide free information to young people about the services available to them in their area. What an idea! And we all have mobile phones in this room too. I would like to invite you to join us in this challenge this year – to find a place in your community and in your heart to see how you can be involved. This is our community. None of us are a part of nothing. We all go back to a home tonight whether it’s our hotel at the moment which is a community in itself, or it’s back to your workplaces, your families and your states. We need you to come behind us. CORA is not about an individual. It’s not about the person sitting beside you, it’s not about the department that works across the road from you and it’s not about the other states. It is about you as an individual working together and it’s about us working together as well. So I challenge you to think about your community – your ownership, your responsibility and the action that you can take. We are all able to make a difference in our communities. It only takes one person to stand up to start that change. As I mentioned before this is a concept but we are trying to make it a mindset. We may not produce DVDs, we may not produce pamphlets, it may not be big in the media but it will be relational. It will be us getting out there making a difference. I’m going to show you an example of how this may look. In a small New South Wales town many years ago somebody said we have a problem. We have young people committing crime and we don’t know what to do. The community was at a loss. The crime rate was horrific. And they came together in a community meeting and said we need this to stop. And someone had this amazing idea – I believe it was a sociologist, and they said how about we start acknowledging our young people? How about we stop being afraid of our young people and just smile at them? Can you imagine what a small smile could do to a young person, or to an older person or to a homeless person? So this community went out and every time they walked past a young person they smiled at them. After 6 months their crime rate had decreased significantly. But it also meant that they started building relationships with these young people as well. They started to know the names of the people. They started to know where they lived. They started to know what the issues were for those young people and were able to support them appropriately. So next time Bobby thought about rocking the roof of the butcher’s he couldn’t get away with it because they all knew who Bobby was and where he lived. What a story that is. Would you love to live in a community where everybody knew you, not in a bad way but were able to support you – were able to smile at you when you walked down the street? So you didn’t feel afraid. So you didn’t have to think about where your wallet was or where it wasn’t. You don’t have to think about is your car locked? Where you know that if you need help your neighbour is someone that you can turn to? I know. I live in a small community where I’ve just built a house and the neighbours across the road from me look at me. They don’t know how to approach me. They don’t know how to smile at me. And I feel that is very sad because we live in a community where we are isolated. We need to get out there. We need to break down our fences and start to get to know our neighbours. We need to get to know the people in our community. So CORA is essentially about that. We will be taking ownership and responsibility and taking action this year. And so I invite you to think about how you could be involved in CORA 2007. Thank you. Allison Rickards: Obviously being involved in that presentation I’ve heard those stories before yet I still find it an emotional experience every time. I’d now like to invite the Rural Development team for their presentation.