Relationships Australia NT takes to approach to youth in justice system

Fresh approach for trauma-affected youth

June 28, 2018

An evaluation of support services for young Aboriginal people affected by the Royal Commission into Protection and Detention of Children in the Northern Territory has found that an innovative approach is required to break down the barriers of adversity and to restore cultural and emotional well-being.

Relationships Australia NT has issued a report this week detailing an independent evaluation of their services offered to young people affected by the Royal Commission with the aim of sharing key learnings across the sector.

The report found that people who had been affected by the Royal Commission were vulnerable and experienced poor access to services, a lack of connection with culture, little family support and economic disadvantage.

The young people were slow to trust service providers and were affected by events surrounding the Royal Commission including prolonged media reporting and attention.

Researcher Jacqueline Dysart discovered however, that “despite experiencing the ‘pointy end’ of racial inequality and justice system failures, young people had a real interest for culture, politics, learning new things, pointing out injustice, making music, healing and healing others”.

“The Relationships Australia Royal Commission program has demonstrated that if you work in a trauma-informed, culturally active way, you invite strong engagement and conversations for growth and change.”

Relationship Australia NT developed a model of care that restored culture and provided diverse therapeutic approaches to wellbeing by going beyond conventional counselling programs. A step which shows promise for future service delivery models.

The Program collaborated with Aboriginal Controlled Organisations Danila Dilba Health Service and North Australian Aboriginal Justice Agency to provide support and counselling which actively addressed cultural understanding and practices. Activities included a healing camp, spear making, fishing and a song-writing program called “I’m Not Crime”.

Relationships Australia NT provided support services to young people affected by the Royal Commission from October 2016 to June 2018. The program, which was funded by the Commonwealth Department of Social Services, saw over 200 clients access the service for individual therapy, attending on average 13.8 sessions each.

Program activities were held in Alice Springs, Katherine and Darwin.

Relationships Australia NT Support Services Manager, Geoff Radford said that they welcome the opportunity to share their experience.

“I would like to give other service providers, organisations working with young people and those who inform funding decisions regarding services in this sector the opportunity to benefit from the learnings we have made over the last two years.”

“The young people we worked with, and their families have stressed how important accessible culturally appropriate services are to their lives,” Mr Radford said.

The song “I’m Not Crime” and the Healing Camp video produced during the support services program can be found on the Relationships Australia NT website, along with the Evaluation Report.

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