Youth Outreach @ Balcombe Heights Estate
The 2realise youth outreach program is a weekly activity aimed at attracting and engaging high school youth in The Hills Shire in order to provide local support and information on a variety of topics such as career guidance, health and wellbeing and referral to various community services. This service aims to assist youth people aged 12 – 18 years and is being delivered at the skate park facilities located in the Balcombe Heights Estate for 16 weeks from February 2016.
Each Wednesday afternoon from 3:30 – 5:30, 2realise cooks a BBQ, provides water and snacks and plays music at the skate park. There are also alternative activities for those who wish to drop in or aren’t using the skate park.
Snapshot – The first 8 weeks
- We have found that this skatepark is full of really positive behaviours: respect, sharing, encouragement, patience, empathy, reslience, determination, supportive and kindness just to name a few
- Average 19 young people attending each week
- 10 attendees each week are in the target age group
- Average Age approx. 13 – 14 years
- Average more than 1 conversation with a parent each week
- More than 5 each week are regular attendees
- Sausages are more popular than pancakes
- Scooters are more popular than skate boards
- Most come to skate and aren’t interested in other activities
- Consistency is the key to engagement
- Majority males attend (12% female attendance and usually this is younger girls 6 & 7 yrs old
- In partnership with The Hills Shire Council, we engaged with Totem Skateboarding to run workshops and demos for the afternoon.
Representatives from Hill Community Aid, Hills Shire Council, headspace Castle Hill, Hillsong Youth Services (City Care) and Ability Options have attended outreach. High Street Youth Services and The Hills LAC are keen supporters of the outreach program and are on call to attend if young people needing their assistance drop by. As a result of this initiative, a local business sponsored a prize for the Youth Week Hills Youth Festival event.
What have we found out so far:
- Young people in The Hills are not accustomed to having youth services come to them. There was an element of surprise and caution when the program began.
- Reaching the target age group can be a challenge as many parents are welcoming the music and atmosphere for their younger children to come and skate.
- Multiple community events and services are advertised to young people who haven’t heard of them ie. Youth Fest and headspace.
- Many young people are returning week after week, accepting us into their space; there was always the risk they would stay away on a Wednesday.
- Service providers and the community have been vocal in their support for the program and the importance they place on connecting young people to their community.
- Developing relationships is the key to successful outreach rather than activities or structure (Bocarro & Witt, 2005). Relationships can only be developed with consistency and presence. The next 9 weeks will be less focussed on organised activities and continue to focus on building trust with young people attending.
- Continuing to collect and advertise services and events as those attending generally haven’t heard of community events for them.
- Keeping partners updated and requesting their attendance if a need arises
- Continuing to attract the target age group as many younger children now attend.
- The weather will be changing heading into Winter –the program will need to be flexible to how this affects attendees.
- Having a male community worker would be beneficial as Ibrahim, (2014) has found gender of outreach workers can impact the success of outreach programs.
If you would like to know more about this initiative, please call the 2realise office on 1300 273254.
This project received funding through Castle Hill RSL and Baulkham Hills Sporting Club ClubGRANTS Scheme.