Once disengaged, now starting afresh

Inspired: Chris Tobin encouraged the youths to leave any negativity "on the other side of the smoke".
Inspired: Chris Tobin encouraged the youths to leave any negativity "on the other side of the smoke".

ABORIGINAL youth were inspired to reach for their cultural roots with a program aimed at boys who have not enrolled in mainstream education.

The Young Brothers program in its second year had 12 young men from Parramatta and Blacktown participating in workshops organised by MTC Australia in May and June.

Participants attend western Sydney behavioural schools or are not enrolled in high school.

"These are completely disengaged young people," said Young Brothers founder and youth outreach worker Shiva Gounden.

"A lot of them have extreme behavioural issues, broken families or low literacy and numeracy.

"There were guys who didn't want to contribute at all in the first session but after a few weeks they are the ones initiating conversation in the sessions.

"One young person who would always start fights was making an effort to learn."

Sessions included visits from Eels players, indigenous games and discussions on bullying, teamwork, drugs and alcohol, healthy relationships and mental and sexual health.

In the final week, the group visited Red Hands Cave at Glenbrook National Park for a bushwalk and cultural talk with Darug man and Aboriginal discovery ranger Chris Tobin, who showed them bush foods such as native currants and performed a smoking ceremony to cleanse bad energies.

Mr Tobin said he'd been warned it could be a "challenging group" but they had been "attentive and respectful".

One Camilaroi participant, Joshuah Sing, 16, of Mays Hill, said his eyes had been opened.

"We are a strong race," Joshuah said.

"So much can be learnt of the culture from paintings, stories and socialising."

Program partners included High Street Health Services at Harris Park, the Eels and Marist Youth Care Blacktown.


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