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Sam’s year of kicking goals

Sam, a young Aboriginal boy in the Stand As One mentoring program, was just 15 when he went into custody at Frank Baxter Youth Justice Centre. Sam was the youngest person at the centre and was referred to the Enhanced Support Unit (ESU) to receive intensive therapeutic support. The ESU operates in line with a trauma informed care approach and includes additional support with onsite access to psychology, occupational therapy, speech pathology and casework. Sam has complex needs, being diagnosed with an intellectual disability, complex PTSD and being on the Autism Spectrum. SHINE matched Sam with Stand As One mentor Andrew who has a background in teaching young people with learning difficulties and behavioural disorders. Andrew has also spent many years teaching and working with Aboriginal communities in the Northern Territory as well as on the NSW Central Coast. They connected and developed a bond through their shared appreciation and interest in Aboriginal artworks, storytelling and culture. Andrew always comes to visits with books and activities specific to Aboriginal culture for Sam to support his connection to his culture. It was wonderful to watch Sam explaining the meanings of the artworks in one of the books to Andrew. It is evident their connection has grown and Sam feels comfortable teaching Andrew a few things too!

Sam and Andrew maintained contact via phone calls and letter writing when Sam moved back to his home town in Central West NSW post discharge. Unfortunately, Sam reoffended while he was back in the community. He hadn’t had the emotional and practical supports and structure he needed which left him susceptible. When Sam re-entered custody at Frank Baxter this year, Andrew and he recommenced their weekly sessions. Sam graduated from the ESU, successfully transitioned to a mainstream unit and continues to engage in psychological and casework intervention, schooling, cultural activities and programs.

A highlight for Sam this year was being chosen to participate in Boots for Brighter Futures, an initiative which raises awareness of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander youth suicide and supports its prevention in Australia. It is a great program in which young people in youth justice centres paint boots for NRL players to wear during the Indigenous round. Newcastle Knights Utility Connor Watson visited Frank Baxter to meet Sam and the other artists. Connor says “You actually get to see who these kids really are and it’s pretty cool the detail that goes into with the boots … they do the research on the players, where they’re from, where they grew up, to be able to tell their own story through art”.

It’s been wonderful to see Sam’s confidence and pride grow through his connection to culture. To have one of his biggest idols proudly wear his Aboriginal artwork on his footy boots for the nation to see is simply the best!

Photo by Cultural Choice Association

Sam’s year of kicking goals

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