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From youth justice to employment & reconnecting with his faith

Nathan* grew up in a loving but disadvantaged household and became disengaged as a teenager and drawn to negative influences. At 17, he found himself in youth custody.

But this isn’t a sad story.

As he approached release, Nathan decided it was time to take control of his future.

He had the opportunity to participate in the SHINE for Kids Stand As One mentoring program and took the chance wholeheartedly.

In Stand As One, young people in custody are matched with a trusted adult mentor who supports them in their transition back into the community.

With the right support, young people like Nathan often begin to view their time in custody as a “turning point” and are open to receiving help.

What drew Nathan to Stand As One was partly the fact that, while many of the other programs he was participating in in custody were limited to that time, he would still receive intensive support from SHINE for Kids after his release.

Often, young people will make positive progress while in custody, where they have a degree of stability, regular meals, development programs, and psychological care— but this all but drops off when they are released, leaving them vulnerable to cycles of disadvantage and crime.

Navigating support services, applying for jobs, setting goals, and getting back on their feet can be daunting, but mentors like Lucia* make it all much easier.

A fresh start

Despite his situation, Nathan’s mentor Lucia* said that when she first met him, he was “very polite, friendly, mature and had a positive attitude”.

“Whilst in custody, our mentoring sessions were primarily around managing difficult emotions, navigating relationships with family and other young people in the custody environment,” Lucia says.

“We also focused on developing healthy habits and routines in custody – particularly around health and fitness, and planning for the future upon release.”

The lead-up to release can often generate a lot of anxiety and emotions for young people, especially those who are trying to make a positive change in their lives. Making new friends, for example, and finding a new community outside of crime can be intimidating.

SHINE for Kids also helps out with financial assistance, such as covering the cost of clothes for interviews or paying registration fees for sports clubs, so young people don’t face barriers to joining new social communities.

“We spent a lot of time planning and creating strategies to support him to separate himself from gang involvement upon release,” Lucia says.

“We have also done a lot of planning around goals such as education and employment.”

Teamwork makes the dream work

The continuity of support from custody through to the community has made all the difference for Nathan.

Now 19, he has been putting his goals into action and has a work ethic that’s impressing everyone!

“During our first session in the community, we went to the CONFIT Gym in Parramatta to reconnect him with their team, which he also worked with while in custody,” Lucia says, “He was offered a job there and started the very next day!”

Nathan is now working three jobs: working in the gym on weekdays, concreting on the weekends, and working at a grocery store some evenings. He’s also completing his tickets to gain employment in the mining industry.

Lucia and Nathan meet in person often and have weekly phone calls, during which she helps him troubleshoot issues and remain focused on his goals.

Beyond his employment goals, Nathan has also been reconnecting with his Samoan culture and Christian faith, which was supported through cultural programs while he was in custody.

He is even returning to church services after many years without attending.

“[Nathan] has a very close and supportive family, which has been a big motivator for him throughout his journey in custody,” says Lucia.

“Both Nathan and his mum said that being part of the Stand As One has been crucial for him, especially as they were worried that when he transitioned out of custody, he would go from having all that support to none.”

The support he has received in custody—including Stand As One, CONFIT Pathways, Girakool School, his case worker, psychologist and the cultural program staff— had a huge impact on his life and trajectory.

“I’m so proud of his achievements and look forward to helping him continue to kick goals!” says Lucia.

*Names & images are changed to protect participant identities

From youth justice to employment & reconnecting with his faith

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