THE Reconnect program in Seville Grove is changing lives for indigenous children at risk.
Funded by the federal Department of Social Services, the program targets young Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander youth aged between 12 and 18 in the southeast metropolitan area who are homeless or at risk of homelessness.
In the four years that Reconnect has been run by Save the Children, more than 200 children and their families have been assisted.
Family support worker Johnna Flavell said the most important part of her job was stabilising housing for the young person.
“We source in the family, always. If mum and dad aren’t able, what about nan and pop, or an aunty? What does the young person think? Where do they feel safe? And we’ll try and facilitate something from there,” Ms Flavell said.
“A lot of family members have stepped up for the young people… that’s been good. These family members have had their own issues but sorted themselves out, so they’ve been there before and know what they’re going through.”
Ms Flavell said the program had witnessed massive change in young people’s lives, with one young man going through the six-month support system multiple times.
“He ended up on drugs while in the program as well, would disengage and re-engage. We kept picking him up and supporting him,” she said.
“He went into Banksia (Hill Juvenile Detention Centre) for six months, was hooked on methamphetamines. He was referred to us again and we picked him up about six weeks prior to being released and just mentored him. He came out, we had a plan already set… the day after he got out, we hit the ground running.”
The young man was surrounded by support from his grandmother and various services and went on to become a volunteer mentor for other boys and now works full-time.
“One of the great things we’ve created is the type of relationships we have with the families.
“They’re the reason we’re here and that’s one of our focal points. It’s part of the reason why that young man was able to thrive, his nan was so proud,” Ms Flavell said.
Ms Flavell, team leader Steve Dyson and Save the Children regional co-ordinator Heidi Holmen said in the future, the way forward would be by addressing the root causes of problems faced by young people.
“If we really want lasting change, we need specialised services. We know these clients will only go to agencies when they’re in crisis, so how do we change that?” Ms Holmen said.