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A Street University for young people by young people is In the Spotlight

by PeakCare Qld on 3rd June 2016

Home -> Articles -> 2016 -> June -> A Street University for young people by young people is In the Spotlight

The Street University is a youth development project created by the Ted Noffs Foundation. Originally named The Wayside Foundation, Noffs Foundation was founded in 1970 by Australian humanitarian, Reverend Ted Noffs and his wife. Prior to establishing the Foundation, Noffs established Sydney’s first crisis centre in 1968, set up the first Drug Referral Centre in Sydney in 1967, co-founded the Aboriginal Affairs Foundation in 1962 and co-founded Lifeline in 1963.

The primary focus of Noffs services is socially disadvantaged and disconnected young people, in particular those from Indigenous and culturally diverse backgrounds. The organisation has a long standing expertise in the treatment of young people with drug and alcohol issues with a keen priority placed on those who also face mental health issues. Their vision is: Helping Disadvantaged Young Australians Become Advantaged.

The organisation recently expanded to include the Street University in Queensland. It operates in 3 sites located in Caboolture, Southport and Logan city where their head office is based. They boast a team of drug and alcohol and mental health counsellors that support young people in ending the cycle of addiction, abuse and violence that is often part of their history. These counselling supports are available from 9am until 6pm Monday to Friday. All services are free of charge. The primary focus of the clinicians of the Queensland Service is to comprehensively assess all clients referred to the service, develop an individual treatment plan and provide intervention to support clients achieving their goals. Joel Tuita, Senior Facilitator & Youth Engagement Officer states: “Our aim is to help young people realise their dreams, harness their potential and to create positive outcomes for their lives and their community”.

The Street University is open for workshops from 3pm until 6pm each day. Various offerings such as graffiti, dance, music, access to the recording studios and song writing workshops ensure optimal opportunities to engage with young people. The University is uniquely run by young people for young people. It is focused on the arts and youth culture. As well as music, art and dance, gaming and adventure based activities are also options for young people to undertake: “Whatever young people’s interests are we try our best to cater for them” says Joel. “The approach is raw and ‘out there’ but it’s what is working.”

This organisation boasts the involvement of young people at every level of the organisation. They are valued and make a significant contribution to decision making, planning, developing and organising programs.

Whilst focused on young people, Noffs involves the whole community by organising and promoting events to create shared experiences and open pathways for dialogue to enhance social inclusion. They emphasise the use of multi-dimensional approaches to engage and maintain positive relationships with young people. These approaches include the creation of welcoming and safe social spaces, inclusion of young people in decision-making and planning processes, catering for social and cultural diversity, collaboration with a range of other specialist services and a focus on problem solving. All services are evidence-based and regularly evaluated.

Operating in these multicultural environments, the Street University opens up dynamic spaces for marginalised young people with the aim of offering diversionary programs. Building self-esteem, communication, co-operation and social engagement is key. The services provided involve parents, schools, local councils and businesses, the state government and community and religious groups and leaders. The Street University uses the commonality of cultural settings that are familiar and attractive to young people to guide, support and transform their interests into vocational and educational success.

It provides various community based services and interactive spaces for young people aged 12 – 25. The Street University’s trained directors, mentors and facilitators use a multifaceted range of youth work, counselling and community development techniques in order to combine progressive approaches to social work with grassroots community participation. “We experiment with the artistic and social potential made possible by a uniquely Australian multi-ethnic, inter-faith, socially diverse culture” says Joel.

Launched by the Queensland Health Minister, the Honourable Cameron Dick in June 2015, these initiatives have drawn widespread praise from local health and welfare agencies. “In my opinion Ted Noffs foundation is such a unique family of people committed to helping disadvantaged young people become the advantaged. Our Street Uni slogan is “For the STREET, By the STREET” so we basically have a youth committee that operate the organisation from hiring staff to running events and they also oversee any changes made to the site. This approach has given young people more than just a sense of belonging butownership of the space. Personal growth has been so rewarding to see in individuals. The impact the youth committee has made on fellow young people is incredible.This movement is breaking down walls in young people’s lives and truly setting them free in a generation so influenced by image”.

For more information email qldreferrals@noffs.org.au or call 1800 753 300

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