This journalist has a great story to tell

FORMER ABC foreign correspondent and 60 Minutes journalist Jeff McMullen believes the Shoalhaven has a lesson the rest of Australia should take notice of.

Mr McMullen will be in Nowra on Sunday to launch the Aboriginal Youth Engagement Strategy.

The strategy was created to help Aboriginal youth forge more connections within the community and help those working with them to engage better.

The launch will take place at the Shoalhaven Entertain-ment Centre from 10am.

Shoalhaven Mayor Joanna Gash said the council had worked closely with the Aboriginal Advisory Committee, Youth Advisory Committee and the Aboriginal community in the development of the Aboriginal Youth Engagement Strategy.

“The strategy will provide a guide for those working across a range of community sectors to help encourage and support Aboriginal youth in achieving their goals and reaching their potential,” she said.

“The launch is being held as part of Youth Week celebrations and will feature renowned journalist Jeff McMullen.”

Mr McMullen has an extensive background in indigenous issues, serving as director of the Australian Indigenous Mentoring Experience, and is also trustee of the Jimmy Little Foundation, working with Aboriginal doctors to help reduce chronic illnesses in the Aboriginal community.

Mr McMullen, who has been to the Shoalhaven on a number of occasions, said the local community has the right approach to working with Aboriginal youth.

“Get everyone involved and try to bring more local people together on the issue,” he said.

“I’ve been to the South Coast a lot.

“Shoalhaven City Council has invited me down over the past decade to speak with and about Aboriginal communities.”

He said the most hopeful change that affects Aboriginal families was change in the communities themselves.

“It’s the grassroots workers like people in local schools, youth workers and Shoalhaven’s Aboriginal organisations that are very good at getting on with it,” he said.

“Research done by the government is finding the way to push ahead is to support things that are already working in the community.

“It’s about recognising you have got this energy and talent and putting the money and hard work in to support those local strategies.”

Mr McMullen said a very old and worrying trend by federal governments of all political colours was to come up with grandiose plans for what they called reform.

“That often involved cutting back support for some of the most crucial workers on the front line.”

He thought the direction of programs like the Shoalhaven strategy was well thought through and offered informed views.

“The evidence is there. We know what organisations most young Aboriginal people will be involved with and then we can see where to build affective partnerships,” he said.  

“Aboriginal education officers are probably the most under-appreciated; they’re unsung heroes across the country in education.

“They have an extraordinary impact because they know young people.

“And it’s about knowing what’s on the minds of younger people and being able to work on a mentor program for youth.”

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