A new program for indigenous teenagers has resulted in better school attendance and a shift in attitudes towards the police.
Better school attendance, life skills and a shift in attitudes towards the police are among the outcomes of an innovative program aimed at encouraging healthy relationships between Aboriginal teenagers and local officers across NSW.
As part of NSW Police Commissioner Mick Fuller’s RISEUP strategy, the Fit Together program is a collaborative approach with PCYC designed to help young Indigenous people by teaching them job skills and keeping them connected to their culture.
And the program has already seen impressive results including in Bateau Bay PCYC on the Central Coast, where 11 young people who were previously disengaged with school are now attending five days a week.
Toyah Fenton, 14, elder Elaine Gordon, Superintendent Mark Wall and Shania Flint, 15, at the launch of a Fit Together program at PCYC Mount Druitt. Picture: Darren Leigh Roberts
As a boy from Bankstown, Mark Wall had a hard dose of culture shock when he was transferred more than 1000km away as a young police officer to work the beat in outback NSW.
But it was in Broken Hill where he began dealing with Indigenous youth and realised the potential for police to engage with them early to keep them on the straight and narrow.
In 2019, Superintendent Wall was promoted as boss of the state’s Youth and Crime Prevention Command and now helps oversee the RISEUP strategy.
“Obviously Bankstown back in the time was pretty rough and ready.
“But it’s a different way of life (in the bush),” he said. “(Aboriginal youth) are amazing, their passion and their honesty – they just tell you how it is.
“Once you build that relationship and they trust you, they come and give you a hug and talk about their experiences and future – you can see the pride in them.”
Now back in Sydney, Supt Wall attended PCYC Mount Druitt on Thursday for the launch of a new Fit Together program.
On day one a group of local girls sat in a circle in the gym to chat with Indigenous elders and also started working on a traditional mural, which will be gifted to the commissioner at the end of the nine-week program.
Chifley College student Shania Flint, 15, told The Daily Telegraph she was keen to learn more about her Aboriginal heritage and one day hoped to study counselling.
“I want to be a counsellor because I went through a lot when I was little, so I want to help more kids go through the stuff I went through,” she said.
PCYC chief executive Dominic Teakle said they were seeing the results of these programs and mentioned one story of a NSW rural police officer picking up two kids for a lift.
“He was waved down by two young kids … he picked them up in his police car and as (the kids) got out of the police car (one) handed him his wallet and his badge and said ‘You’ll be needing that’,” he said.
“What it shows is the very distinct shift in attitudes towards police.”
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