Community arts programs aimed at reconnecting Aboriginal people to the proud tradition of storytelling; youth outreach projects that give young people a space to share their feelings, form supportive relationships, and plan for the future; proactive services that assist Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in securing safe housing, employment, and training opportunities.

These may sound like government programs developed by large industry bodies. In reality, they are grassroots programs designed and developed by passionate young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, aged 18–25, who seek to affect positive change within their communities.

Oxfam’s ChangeCourse program works with these young people over a two year period providing support, guidance and training to help them implement their programs and ensure it is sustainable. With the 2012—2014 program cycle now at an end, several participants reflect on what they’ve learned throughout this journey and what the future holds.

Jermayne, 21, Beaudesert, Queensland

“I’ve always had an inside passion for working with youth, and always thought I could do a bit more for my community. But I never took that leap of faith; I never really had that belief in myself.

“[ChangeCourse has] not only played a big part in my work life and the choices I’ve made as a youth worker; it’s also largely impacted me as a person. All the great people I’ve met, the experiences, the training … The support itself is just amazing. Part of my goal as a person was being able to get out and help people — [but] they’ve helped me. So much. They couldn’t have done a better job.”

Tahlia, 27, Raukkan, South Australia

“I work for Housing SA … in our community, if you’re homeless or a young person under the age of 18, you’re taken from your small country town and put in a shelter in Adelaide. That’s your only option.

“One of the things I want to do [with my program] is provide pathways for these kids. A bit of guidance to looking at private rental and their options with Housing SA.

“[ChangeCourse] has definitely given me a confidence boost on what I’ve been doing so far in my community … It’s been so great to come together with everyone, hear their stories and share what we’re doing.”

Rhett, 22, Airds, New South Wales

“When I was about 15 or 16, [I knew then] that I wanted to work with young people. And finding out more about my culture, I wanted to work with young Aboriginal people.

“I see what happens in the youth sector at home. [Social] workers will put on a basketball comp, just for the sake of having a basketball comp … but there needs to be more than just some kids running around for something to do.

“It’s the system, not the individuals; it’s the way things have always been done … giving kids a chance to just kick a ball isn’t going to solve their problems … I wanted to do something more.

Read more about Rhett’s program.

Applications for ChangeCourse are currently closed.

For further information, please contact us