Opportunities key to making most of life
CULTURE and education are essential to ensuring Aboriginal people can make the most of life.
That was the message delivered at a NAIDOC Week forum at Inverloch last Wednesday.
The event featured Justice Peter Gebhardt, Wulgunggo Ngalu Learning Place manager Shaun Braybrook, indigenous prison warden Kyle Lancaster, Sean Armistead from Career Trackers indigenous recruitment agency and indigenous university student Renee Enzim.
Wulunggo Ngalu is a correctional facility at Won Wron near Yarram to address the over-representation of young indigenous men in the prison system.
“Aboriginal men are breaching their community based orders at twice the rate of non-Aboriginal fellas,” Mr Braybrook said.
At Wulgunggo Ngalu, young men on such orders learn about life and community skills, and also about their traditional cultures in a bid to establish a sense of identity.
Wulgunggo Ngalu means “Which way together” in the language of the Gunai-Kurnai people of Gippsland.
Men volunteer to take part and move away from their troublesome surrounds temporarily. They learn workplace skills and undertake such courses as horticulture, computers and chainsaw use, problem solving skills, and indigenous dance and art.
Men gather around a fire pit to talk about their worries
In 2010, the program won an international corrections award recognising its innovative way of working with men undertaking orders.
“If you come down to Wulgunggo Ngalu, you walk away with a much greater understanding of what it means to be a man in Aboriginal society,” Mr Braybook said.
He spoke about of his diverse working life, beginning a plumbing apprenticeship at 16, then undertaking youth work at an Aboriginal youth support centre.
For financial reasons he resumed plumbing before being offered a role as an Aboriginal liaison officer at Port Phillip Prison in Melbourne.
The five year role was one of the hardest of his career.
“It was a really difficult for me to walk that line between being respected in the community and also meeting the expectations of the prison system,” he said.
Ms Enzim is now studying commerce at the University of Melbourne and has undertaken work experience through Mr Amistead’s organisation, Career Trackers, which aims to create career opportunities for indigenous people.
“You have to take the opportunities you are given but you have got to chase them,” Ms Enzim said.
The forum was held by the Bass Coast/South Gippsland Reconciliation Group at the Inverloch Community Hub.
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