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Who Am I is In the Spotlight

by PeakCare Qld on 11th March 2016

Home -> Articles -> 2016 -> March -> Who Am I is In the Spotlight

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The Who Am I program was developed as a partnership between the Indigenous Family and Child Support Service (IFACSS) and the Brisbane Youth Detention Centre (BYDC) Programs and Transition Team. The aim of the program is to focus on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people and their social and emotional wellness in order to enhance inclusion.

This program is at its essence a mentoring program. Participants are engaged by connecting with their culture, spirituality and observing their thoughts and attitudes by exploring their past and present circumstances and looking towards their goals for the future.

Who Am I was developed to also include a component of ongoing support for each young person as they transition from detention into the community. The pilot program was conducted in 2 parts between February and June 2015. A total of 12 young people completed the program over 7 weeks.

Jonathan Tapau, IFACSS Family Intervention Worker is the creator of Who Am I. Jonathan and IFACSS Manager Greg Upkett have worked on the program in partnership with BYDC throughout its conception, implementation and evaluation phases:

“The program addresses issues relevant to young people in the context of their individual and current life position by coming to terms with their past and present situation and finding a purpose for their future. These young people often belong to remote and isolated communities with little or no family support or potential for mentorship and guidance. The program and its facilitator create unique opportunities for young people in detention to find meaningful interaction with a significant Indigenous role model and to devise pathways to reconnect with family and their community” stated IFACSS Manager Greg Upkett.

This project was developed in response to the need for relevant, contemporary yet traditional cultural programs for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people in detention. The program is a step forward in the collaboration it demonstrates between the Transition team at BYDC and IFACSS.

Who Am I aims to empower young people to explore issues of identity, develop greater self- awareness, set goals and learn perseverance, purpose and hope. This is achieved through supporting young people in specific facets of their lives by:

* Mapping cultural, family and community connections

* Identifying within themselves their own strengths and the areas in their lives they would like to work on

* Gaining assistance in making improved decisions and learning self-regulation

* Prioritising what matters most to them such as re-connection to family, education, identifying positive people and environments and their hopes and dreams

* Offering strategies and support for building self-esteem, confidence and their belief in positive change

Facilitators remain mindful of the impact of naming various experiences of trauma or self- harm and the vulnerability arising from the disclosure of private and confidential information. They are also cognisant of the lack of resources available to young people to follow up the learning and healing processes in their respective communities when they are transitioned from detention.

Whilst these are areas they’re keen to work on, Greg Upkett and Jon Tapau also note the many benefits of Who Am I. Amongst them: the long term relationship young people build with IFACSS and other community organisations and the fact that the program is regularly assessed and modified based on feedback and an ongoing commitment to continuous improvement. Furthermore, young people are engaged through a multi-disciplinary team approach. The BYDC Program and Transition team’s involvement leads to improved processes of engagement and transition pathways from detention to community and family life.

Such is the popularity of this program that many non-Indigenous young people have asked to participate. Jon states that all young people can benefit from the program: “There is real interest in Aboriginal culture that also comes from many of the young people who are not Indigenous. All young people have benefitted from this program and learning about traditional ways, culture, spirituality and belonging.”

The evaluative feedback received from young people was overwhelmingly positive with the vast majority of young people stating they would like more of this program, they learned from the sessions and the staff were great to talk to:

“The Who Am I Program made me really think about where I’m at now and where I want to be in the future” wrote a 16 year old male participant from Central Queensland.

The program team is currently delving into feedback from all stakeholders, identifying areas of improvement and making recommendations to enhance Who Am I. These include smaller group sizes, allocated one on one sessions and wider collaborations with communities including community based agencies and employment and training organisations.

Greg is optimistic about the long term capacity of Who Am I in supporting positive change in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people as they work through the issues they’ve faced and move forward with hope: “We’re very excited about the outcomes of the pilot program and the opportunities this program offers to Indigenous young people in turning their lives around when they engage in these workshops and sessions and receive ongoing transitional support as they return to community.” For further information about IFACSS and the services they offer go to: http://ifacss.org.au/