In early 2017 Morwell’s Staying Strong Youth Camp provided youth in the community the opportunity to connect culturally, strengthen identity and focus on diversion from involvement with the justice system. During this camp the group created a banner in celebration of last year’s NAIDOC theme ‘Our Languages Matter.’ The banner was then proudly flown by the young people at the Morwell NAIDOC march.
After the March, participants in the Local Justice Worker Program were then given the task of framing the banner as part of the program. The Local Justice Worker Program focuses on providing a culturally appropriate and meaningful community work site for Aboriginal men with unpaid community work obligations. The program combines culture with community work, starting with a men’s group at the beginning of every session, flexibility and cultural guidance and mentoring.
The men within the site were guided by Mitchell Burney, Morwell’s Senior Local Justice Worker, and Uncle Cliff Wandin, Community Work Field Officer and qualified carpenter throughout the project. Together all the men planned the project, from sourcing and shopping for necessary tools and wood to making the very large 2.5×1.5 meter frame; they utilised an inclusive teamwork approach. The group learnt wood work skills, work place health and safety awareness and job skills whilst making the frame and afterwards they were involved in hanging it for display in VACCA Morwell’s reception area.
Mitchell said that the symbolism of the partnership between the Staying Strong Camp and the Local Justice Worker Program was particularly important for the group, “it was meaningful for all involved as the banner was created by young people that are involved in a program aiming to ensure they don’t end up in the justice system and it really resonated with the men who framed it.” Said Mitchell, “The men gave feedback about understanding they had made mistakes, owning those mistakes and trying to give back to the young people, elders and everyone in their community and expressed that this project had been a special one to them, as they want to send a message to the young people to stay strong and stay out of trouble, just as the name of the camp program suggests.” The artwork now hangs in VACCA Morwell’s reception area where staff are proud to display it in a community space.