The Paris Tragedy, whilst devastating for all those effected, is an incredibly timely and powerful opportunity for all the organisations across the sector to work together and create real solutions for our young people and our communities. We need to implement a critical process, facilitated across the state, to ensure that we create resilience for young people, cohesive communities and strengthened networks, to build peace, harmony and a positive future. However, this needs to be conducted in an empowering and inclusive way, so we don’t alienate our young people further, creating more social fracturing and disharmony. We are at a critical time in our nations history and the next few steps will decide which direction our future could take.
The Valley Centre’s role in this process of coming together is paramount. We have 20 years’ experience working across all sectors relating to community, social welfare, the environment, health and wellbeing, multicultural issues, of course at the centre, working with our young people; early intervention and prevention work, empowerment and leadership, plus community contribution. The Valley Centre Property is a 170 acre nature sanctuary (1 hour from the Sydney CBD) dedicated to creating an EcoWonderland for young people, where our youth can vision and create their future, enabling them to gain critical, on-the-ground experience. This is a key feature of our project.
We have a vision to build a collective of youth organisations, religious and multicultural especially, forming a cohort of people committed to working together for a future based on resilience, empowerment and strength. This will enable communities to develop the ability to respond to international or local crises, address issues of discrimination and alienation in our communities and support and mentor our young people, who are our future.
Diversity in the natural would means healthy and strong ecosystems. The same can be said for our social environments. Diversity is not a weakness or an accidental outcome, it is a powerful and prolific phenomena that occurs in nature, and so too our communities. We need to be celebrating this diversity. Firstly acknowledging difference, then celebrating our uniqueness in an ocean of different flavours and colours. For it is only then that we can truly know the meaning of being a community.
Here in Australia we have the oldest culture and the most contemporary set of diverse cultures, which yes is a melting pot, but it is our strength. This, when acknowledged and celebrated is the glue that brings our society together and allows Australians to be the giving, generous, open minded nation that we are. In addition to this celebration of diversity, we have the responsibility of creating the healthiest spaces for young people. Healthy meaning safe, transparent, resourceful, passionate and active.
These are the critical aspects for our young people i.e. surrounding them with positive, active & creative spaces to allow them a) see a positive future b) find themselves within it c) see where they can contribute to creating this positive future and d) being enthusiastic champions for others.
We have been working with Aboriginal Elders and their communities across NSW and for them it is simple: we are one humanity, connected to Mother Earth, which is something we all share. The Valley Centre’s Nardu Model, which is the Aboriginal word for seed, forms the basis of our project; We are one family of humanity, on one home, planet earth working to a safer sustainable future.
We need to promote calm, with the ability to listen and to allow kids to literally feel that we are one humanity. What we are seeing around the country is distressing, with youth homelessness reaching 20,000 children every night, intergenerational trauma rife within families, with nowhere to listen and to share. Rather than just being “educated”, we need to listen to their needs and be aware of what kids are seeing around them i.e. violence, hate, environmental destruction, greed and displacement. What has compounded this is social media and the internet, which virally sends around images of these things from across the world.
Thus it is also our responsibility to be rewording our global, national and local narratives. That in actual fact, our collective community has all the resources and capacity it needs to make young people resilient; that we do have the ability to provide enormous capacity to support young people; that we do have the capacity to understand each other and finally; that this generation of young people is the most innovative and creative generation we have seen.
However, if young people are not supported and can’t see a way to create a positive future, they will turn in on themselves and each other. This is exactly the root cause of the Columbine Massacre in the USA and the Brixton Riots in the UK. The Nardu Program includes professional team members who have direct training and experiences from these two international events and the social learning and programs that have since been developed.
The risk of international events and how they can be misinterpreted by our youth, can also misrepresent cultures, igniting fear, which can quickly turn to violence. This is what we need to clear. Rather than kids and their community responding with panic and fear, they can respond with support, clear pathways of action and most importantly a coming together to process trauma and grief around these instances.
For those of us who grew up in a time of peace, prosperity, trust and community, we must step into the shoes of our young people to understand how they feel. We don’t have to sit in the gutter and suffer to know their suffering, but we can sit in the gutter with someone who has suffered for a long time and help them see a way forward. We have to create a positive vision, which is the basis of emotional and psychological wellbeing. This is crucial for a great many young people, who are vulnerable and most likely to respond to crisis in a violent or negative way.
Communities know best how to work within their community, so we will be enacting local activities and leaders to integrate our work. Schools don’t have a lot of extra capacity to work with issues outside the educative environment, thus we have to utilise the school space to help grow these ideas. The truth is, there are millions of organisations and billions of people who are working towards a better world, but you can only understand this if you are in the community sector watching the interactions between organisations.
What we have to do is empower Youth to feel part of this growing reality. Just like churches inspire their young people to believe in God and a creator, we can inspire our young people to know that there are 100s of millions of powerful positive diverse movements on this planet working together for a better world.
A key part of this is creativity. Allowing kids to express themselves in whatever creative form they know how, is crucial to healing, shared experience and working together.
Our team is a skilled, experienced, on-the-ground force that has worked with young people in many different settings including working with young offenders, youth at risk, youth leadership and community contribution, creative healing settings, multicultural challenges and community cohesion. This is closely linked to early intervention, which is a key role of one of our team members, trained in forensic psychology and mental health. Working with the young offender program gave our team the hands on experience of watching young people heal through designing a wildlife sanctuary, giving them a pathway to a new life. Another example of this is a project initiated by one of our team which provides an open mic creative space for young people to express their creative works, healing and bringing people together. Finally another critical part of our program is Spirit in the park, which is a sporting and social night, giving young people and families from all cultural backgrounds the ability to socialise, be together, learn and grow as a community.
Our aim is to empower communities and young people, not to provide a service, to facilitate their journey, not to tell them how or what to do. This is the start of something much bigger, but it is the game changer in terms of creating a new narrative and culture for our nation, one that is built on diversity, strength, resilience and a positive vision for our common future.