Culture can cure many ills

South Coast Medical Service Aboriginal Corporation (SCMSAC) officially launched the Koori Youth Justice Reintegration Program on Monday.

The SCMSAC and the Department of Justice, Juvenile Justice have implemented the two-year pilot program to support Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander youth involved in the justice system.

The program aims to help young offenders to successfully reintegrate into community, develop a strong cultural connection, cultural identity, and reduce offending rates in the Shoalhaven, Eurobodalla and Bega Valley. 

“We want to help connect them back to their identity in the country and community, support them moving forward, and identify some really good role models in the community for the young people,” social health program and evaluation supervisory manager Wade Longbottom said.

This program differs from other programs as it encompasses a more in depth cultural support and education component while still focusing on the social difficulties young people face.

“The whole program is about culture, community and that connection to country to stop the cycle, so they can say ‘you know what I don’t need to be in this bad situation, I can be in a good situation and move forward’,” Mr Longbottom said.

A lot of people talk about culture being lost, but the culture is there and the connection is there, people just need to be shown and given the pathway to get it back.

Wade Longbottom

This is considered a demonstration program and will examine whether providing additional support impacts on reoffending rate after leaving Juvenile Justice custody.

“There are three staff delivering the program, two based in the Shoalhaven and one based in Batemans Bay who will work closely together,” Mr Longbottom said.

“We have good connections with the Juvenile Justice officers in those locations and we also have some good connections with both Shoalhaven and Far South Coast LACs, and they will help support the program.”

Mr Longbottom said 50 per cent of young people in Juvenile Justice in the Shoalhaven are Aboriginal and 70 per cent were Aboriginal in the Bega Valley and Eurobodalla areas.

“They need to be supported with their social needs and we need to do that through identity and culture and showing them there’s better things in life than what society is giving them at the moment,” he said.

“A lot of people talk about culture being lost, but the culture is there and the connection is there, people just need to be shown and given the pathway to get it back.”