Young Indigenous men have highest suicide rate in world
(702 ABC Sydney: Amanda Hoh)
‘We aren’t scary, we are people’Local police have developed a close relationship with the Mount Druitt Indigenous community and will often alert elders like Mr Hamilton if they notice local youths “going down the wrong track”.The relaxed relationship between the young attendees and police officers was reflected in the calls of some boys who yelled out, “Bye Aunty Jules” to Sergeant Julie Underwood as they left the pool deck.”I think that’s absolutely fabulous; they do treat you like you’re the big aunt,” she said. Photo:
Breaking Barriers aims to improve the health, fitness and confidence of local Indigenous youths. It was started three years ago as a spinoff from Clean Slate Without Prejudice, a boxing program for kids in Redfern. Photo:
Sergeant Julie Underwood with (from left) Kelemete Anderson, Ethan Lewis and Dominic Whitton. (702 ABC Sydney: Amanda Hoh)
Breaking Barriers is a fitness and mentorship program overseen by Indigenous elders and Mount Druitt police who hope to inspire young Aboriginal people to avoid a life of crime. (702 ABC Sydney: Amanda Hoh)
While Sergeant Underwood usually attends the morning sessions in civilian clothes, she will occasionally come dressed in her uniform to remind the kids of her day job.”Unfortunately, a lot of the kids have beliefs with police in relation to older members in their family or in their family circle,” she said.”We’re trying to break that down to say we’re not that bad, we aren’t scary, we are people. It takes away that stigma.”Reducing Aboriginal youth crimeAccording to the most recent report of youth detention by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, 54 per cent of all those in detention were Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander.Mr Hamilton said the community elders were determined to reduce the overrepresentation of Indigenous youth in the juvenile justice system. When 15-year-old Carly Bates attended her first session at Breaking Barriers, an Aboriginal youth program in western Sydney, she had low confidence and feared the police.Two years later, her attitude towards authorities has turned around.”At first it was really scary when they said the police were involved and we didn’t know what to do,” Carly said.”But the police say they’re here to help us, and if we’re scared to go to them. (702 ABC Sydney: Amanda Hoh)
“Our motto is: Choices we make will affect our tomorrow.”The real reason we do it is to make sure our kids understand that a life of crime is not what they need in their life.”We talk to them about making better choices.”That’s the message getting through to 11-year-old Jamal Wallace, who gave Sergeant Underwood a wave as he walked past.”[The police are] good leaders for the young kids,” Jamal said.”They’re good and teaching us not to be bad.” We also have all our aunties and uncles here that we can go to whenever we want.”
Carly Bates says the mentors at Breaking Barriers have helped her become more confident. Photo:
The kids race each other across the pool during a fitness session. Breaking Barriers not only creates a social space for the local community through weekly fitness sessions, but it aims to make the young attendees comfortable with talking to authorities.”There’s always a stigma between Aboriginal people and the police that they don’t get along,” Darryl Hamilton, Aboriginal elder and mentor at the program, said.”We’re trying to break those barriers down and make sure our kids are comfortable around police officers instead of being scared by police or not having trust in police.”The group meets every Tuesday and Thursday morning at Emerton Leisure Centre.At one session, about 30 primary and high school students were in the swimming pool balancing on coloured noodles and being put through their paces by a fitness instructor.Afterwards the students were served a healthy breakfast before heading to school.
(702 ABC Sydney: Amanda Hoh) 702 ABC Sydney
August 12, 2016 10:44:19
Young Aboriginal youths are mentored by Mount Druitt police and Indigenous elders.
Elders revive Aboriginal language through children's songs