Tell us a little about yourself and what you do in the community and youth sector?
My name is Rosie Schofield, I’m a Koori woman, my family is Wiradjuri, I was born and raised in Gadigal country. I have a Bachelor in Social Work Honours. I did my honours thesis on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island suicide prevention because I lost friends to suicide and have struggled with mental health myself.
I work as the child and youth specialist at Deadly Connections and facilitate our child and youth program, Deadly Young Warriors (DWY). DYW is an early intervention and prevention program aimed at targeting those involved or at-risk of involvement in the criminal justice system. Through a combination of pro-social, cultural afterschool and school holiday activities, individual and group mentoring, education and advocacy, DYW aims to reduce systems involvement, anti-social and risky behaviours.
I am passionate about healing and empowerment for Aboriginal people and work this into my everyday youth work practice.
What is an example of an innovative program or initiative that you have implemented in the last year that you consider impactful?
Evidence has shown that connection to culture and community is essential for our jarjums (children) and young people to thrive. Deadly Young Warriors (DYW) is about strengthening this connection through a range of activities. One that I consider extremely impactful is our partnership with Brolga Dance Academy to run traditional Aboriginal dance lessons on Monday afternoons. In these classes, we play games, learn culture through dance and Ochre and learn language.
What help or support do young people need to really thrive in this new COVID world?
Now that restrictions have eased up, local youth centres and programs have started back up again. Before COVID we were hosting BBQs and events with 50-60 young people coming through. However, since then, it hasn’t been as busy. As youth workers, we need to rebuild these relationships that were broken due to lockdowns and restrictions. DYW has partnered with Marrickville Youth and Resource Centre (MYRC) to deliver our programs. Our job now is getting the word out there to young people that there is always staff at the centre available to help with what they are going through. From just being hungry after school and looking for a feed, to helping navigate the legal system or dealing with troubles at home, youth centres exist for young ones to get the support they need.
Anything else you'd like to share from your experience to help our readers and the youth community?
University and TAFE courses often don’t equip you with the right knowledge to work with Aboriginal young people. Due to the legacies of colonisation, our jarjums are still disproportionately represented by criminal justice and child protection systems. Therefore a lot of services are going to work with us. Despite this, I found when I was in University the classes missed a lot of important information needed when working with mob. My advice is to also be critical of what you are taught and who it is serving. Make sure you seek out Aboriginal perspectives and voices.
A good place to start is googling Deadly Connections and watching our documentary Incarceration Nation, about how the prison system works in Australia. Another good starting point is following Aboriginal content creators on social media who speak out about our experiences. Education and staying informed are essential as workers if we want to work towards systemic change. Otherwise, you are likely unknowingly contributing to the problem.