from YAPRap May 2006
by Melanie Conlon, YAPRap Feature Writer
Rocks Fest 2005 was a film festival held in The Rocks, Sydney on 20 May 2005 and is set to rock again this year. This festival is organised and run by young people in the Millers Point area, predominantly supported by staff at the Abraham Mott Youth Centre and Lend Lease, along with many other local businesses and volunteers.
I spoke with the Social Worker and Youth Team Leader at Abraham Mott Youth Centre (run by City of Sydney Council). Helen Xiros has been working with this program since its inception and is an inspiring guide to the young people she helps to get involved in projects such as Rocks Fest .
Helen describes Rocks Fest as a festival celebrating local talents and last year the venue was filled to capacity to watch the 5 films that had been directed, filmed and edited by young people
Over 80 people filled the hall and the event organisers were overwhelmed with the response. There was a core group of 5 young ladies who took charge of the organisation of the event with the help of their mentors and youth workers such as Helen.
April says what she thinks
I spoke with April, a young resident of Millers Point who has been involved in the program since the beginning.
How did you get involved?
When a couple of the Lend Lease mentors turned up to my school and the Youth Centre to talk about the program. We then got asked to go to an activity day at Shark Island with a few other young people and some mentors. At the end of the day the young people who were still interested wrote down which mentors they preferred talking to and the mentors wrote down which young people they preferred to work with. After that, staff from the Youth Centre and Lend Lease sat down and matched the young people with mentors.
What is your mentor like?
My mentor is a good support to me and helps me with my homework which is handy with assessments and studying. It's also great to be able to go into Lend Lease and have a coffee with the staff. That's certainly something most young people do not get to do.
What do you like about the program?
It's great getting the chance to organise something like Rocks Fest and it is a great experience. It is awesome to have connections with a big corporate organisation such as Lend Lease as well as other big businesses in the area. I also love the help I get with my homework and going on fun activities such as to Centennial Park for Orienteering and the NSW Institute of Sport at Narrabeen for a weekend camp.
How did you find organising Rocks Fest last year?
It was easy in a way because the young people all knew each other really well and we were familiar with the local community. It was stressful though because we went to a lot of meetings and it took up a lot of time. We also argued about some of the details! After all this though, it was definitely worth it in the end and we learnt some great skills in organising such a successful event.
So what are you planning for this year?
We are planning another huge event, except this time we are running a Talent Quest instead of a films festival. We are still working out the details but it should be run sometime in the October school holidays and we are planning on running some auditions for the performers. We are looking for talented people aged 15 - 24 years old for the event. If you are interested check out the contact details for Abraham Mott Youth Centre below and give Helen a call or call Jessie at Lend Lease. We are expecting heaps more people this year and we will be asking spectators for a donation with all proceeds going to the Starlight Foundation - our charity of choice.
What would you say to other young people who would like to get involved in a project like this?
Get out there, talk to youth workers, your local youth centre and people in your local community. If you are thinking about doing it you should go for it, it's a great experience.
How the program works
Rocks Fest is just one part of a partnership program between 13 organisations within the community: "local people, local organisations, addressing local issues".
The Millers Point Youth Employment Partnership began in 2003 as a result of community consultation by Lend Lease, which now chairs the program. The main participants in the program include Lend Lease, City of Sydney Council (including Abraham Mott Youth Centre), Westpac, Sydney Secondary College, Fort Street Primary School, Ultimo College - Sydney Institute of TAFE, Rotary, Department of Housing, Chamber of Commerce and The Rocks Police.
An Australian award winning program which won the Prime Minister's Award for Excellence in Community Business Partnerships 2005
Lend Lease provide 25 volunteers who act as mentors for young people from Year 6 through to teenaged young people. The mentors work one on one with the young people and can help them with their homework, finding a job or even just being a friendly ear to listen to their troubles. The young people are accessed through local schools or the Abraham Mott Youth Centre.
Helen from Abraham Mott Youth Centre reports that the Youth Centre accesses young people in the area who are predominantly 12 - 24 years old. Helen says they attracted young people to the program by making it a natural progression through to working with the mentors. She said that they didn't structure it too much as this often turns kids off. They organised an event to go to Shark Island and let the young people and mentors get to know each other before matching them up.
The Youth Centre staff report that it is helpful to have the mentors around, as when there are 30 or so young people attending the youth centre every day it has been hard for staff to attend to all the needs of the young people, particularly those who needed it the most. This program allows disadvantaged young people access to one on one support from the mentors who can guide them through troubled times or provide support when things are going well.
Other programs include a breakfast club where Lend Lease volunteers serve breakfast to students before school and a homework club. Any young person can turn up to the homework club, which is run every Wednesday night as long as they call the Youth Centre to make a booking.
Mentor training and supervision of the Lend Lease volunteers is provided by Ultimo campus of TAFE.
What the businesses think
Sydney Secondary College recognised that the teachers have noticed improvements in the young people involved in the program including improvements in self esteem, exposure to positive role models and improved employment opportunities for those involved. They also noted that the program has allowed some difficult students to remain engaged with school who may have otherwise dropped out.
A statement prepared last year by Andrew James - previously the Youth Liaison Officer at The Rocks Police, noted that:
"there has been a decrease in petty crimes in the area as a result of the program. There have also been improvements to the young people in general ie. their self esteem levels have improved and they are much more comfortable relating to adults than they were prior to the mentoring program".
The Prime Ministers Community Business Partnership Award 2005 submission, written by Lend Lease, has noted that there are many ways in which the young people benefit from a collaborated effort such as this. These include personal growth and development, increase in self esteem and confidence, building of new skills, exposure to different career options, greater social and business networks and improvements in school attendance and educational performance.
Also, the submission noted that there have been many indirect benefits noted for the community of Millers Point including: a more sustainable community which uses the strengths of its members, greater connection between corporate, residential sectors and young people in the area, young people participating in the programs become better role models for the younger generations and a return to the sense of pride of its residents.
It is great to see a program with so many partners working so well with young people in the community. This program is hoped to be an example for other communities to follow in their footsteps and create programs that work this way in their own unique areas to benefit young people.
Millers Point Youth & Employment Partnership
02 9277 2542
Abraham Mott Youth Centre
02 9244 3693
Opinions: are the author's and not necessarily YAPA's.