Youth services in central Australia have an important place in the heart of MacDonnell Shire communities. CAYLUS, through its response to volatile substance abuse and advocacy of diversionary programs, played an important role in assisting community councils to operate early remote youth services, and supports MacDonnell Shire Council in its work today. During the local government reform processes, a Shire transition committee emphasised the desire for youth, sport and recreation to be a priority of the new organisation. With the establishment of the Shire, youth services have transitioned from being characterised by sporadic funding and implementation, to a consolidated team of programs continually nurturing best practice in this unique, challenging and rewarding sector. Each program has specific targeted demographics and idealised outcomes. The MacDonnell Shire has chosen to marry these funding sources and create holistic programs which meet the funding requirements by approaching community recreation with an emphasis on engaging families and responding to the unique aspects of the central Australian context.
The Youth Development program operates in:
- Ikuntji (Haasts Bluff)
- Ltentye Apurte (Santa Teresa)
- Ntaria (Hermannsburg)
- Utju (Areyonga)
- Walungurru (Kintore)
- Warumpi (Papunya)
- Watiyawanu (Mt Liebig)
The NPY Women’s Council delivers youth services in the other MacDonnell Shire communities.
MacDonnell Shire Youth Development staff together identified a Vision for the program in late 2010:
Young people who are happy together, enjoying life
and making choices that encourages Anangu to participate in community life
The Vision recognises that the program can but create a safe environment in which young people have an opportunity to feel the joy of making choices for happy and strong communities, even though these may not always be the easy options. This ideal includes providing appropriate support to young people so that they may understand and take responsibility for choices that have other impacts.
To this end, the MacDonnell Shire Youth Development program endeavours to provide routine and consistency which is crucial to a safe choice-making environment. The reliable program is full of activities for families such as bush trips and cultural activities, sports, arts and crafts, cooking, multi-media activities, recreational events such as movie nights and discos, friendship, laughter and fun. The program also connects young people and their families to other services.
The development of the Shire program has entailed a move away from pure engagement of young people, towards an emphasis upon sustainability and community ownership, nurturing strong local youth workers. Activities only operate when there are local youth workers present, and the result is a more culturally and contextually appropriate service, led by home-grown role models.
Every afternoon, a chorus echoes through rec halls, clubs and hubs across the Shire: “Disco tonight?”
While families typically wait until Friday nights to enjoy this popular activity, the universal enthusiasm is testament to the key role that the Youth Development program plays for communities that do not have access to facilities and services available in non-remote areas.
Kids and young people across the MacDonnell Shire love to be involved, and families appreciate that they are intrinsically included in the program.
Ultimately this means that the Youth Development Program is an opportunity for personal and community growth through sharing positive activities together.
What significant development/progress has happened since Aged Care services have been delivered by MSC?
Whilst there is plenty of opportunity for further growth and improvement of the Youth Development program, some achievements to date include:
- Increased program support through the creation of administration and training positions
- An organised induction program for youth workers new to remote work
- Regular support for remote-based Team Leaders
- Varied professional development including informal, accredited and internal training
- Program support which recognises and shares best practice youth service delivery in the context
- A Policies and Procedures Manual that creates a framework within which safe and accountable programs can be delivered
- Systematic reporting that meets the requirements of funding providers but also paints a qualitative portrait crucial for the identification and development of best practice
- A Strategic Plan that brings an unprecedented level of direction and consolidation to youth programs within the MacDonnell Shire
- Information for External Stakeholders to ensure that any collaborations are mutually beneficial for all involved and prioritise the needs of permanent agencies
MacDonnell Shire Youth Development services provide opportunities for young people, families and staff to better know themselves and to enjoy community life together.
Nurturing best practice in delivery of a service which is varied and dynamic is difficult. However, the MacDonnell Shire Council Youth Development team remains committed to recognising the value of consistency and sustainability of service in a working environment that is full of honest conversation, sharing and learning from one another, and lots of fun and laughter.