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Redfern’s young warriors

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Large group of Indigenous youth and young adults and police officers sit and stand on a lawn in front of a two-storey building.
A training session at Victoria Barracks. (Photo courtesy of Clean Slate Without Prejudice)
11 Oct 2017

The inner city suburb of Redfern in Sydney has strong ties to Aboriginal history and has become the home of a youth program designed to motivate and inspire kids.

‘A young lad, 17 years old, came to us three years ago. He had a history of drug use and petty crime (mixing with the wrong crowd) and very irregular school attendance. Over a couple of years, he learnt to be disciplined and regular at the training.’

‘He became steadily more responsible for his own actions and for how he interacted with his family. His school behaviours improved dramatically. He became a confident young man and is currently doing his HSC, with considerable hope for a level that will lead to a worthwhile technical profession.’

The profound change in this young man and many others with similar backgrounds is coming about through a program called Clean Slate Without Prejudice.

Tribal Warrior Aboriginal Corporation manages the program in partnership with the Redfern Local Area Police Command.

Jeremy Wright from Tribal Warrior said it is not just the participants and their families who are benefitting.

‘The main effect is a growing confidence within the Indigenous communities involved. They ‘own’ the program and are therefore much more willing to engage in it,” Jeremy said.

The program name came about after discussions with local police who wanted to join with the community in giving the young people a second chance.

The participants learn discipline through physical training (boxing and martial arts) that starts early in the morning. It also includes language classes and a breakfast before being taken to school or work place, and excursions to places of Aboriginal cultural significance.

The program is about forming good habits, guiding by example, acknowledging Aboriginal achievements and including everyone; the young people and their parents.

Ten mentors from Tribal Warrior and the local police currently guide and encourage 60 young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander youth (male and female), usually from difficult family circumstances. Participants are referred to the program by their parents, the juvenile justice system, their school, the police or Families and Community Services.

‘Real and positive outcomes include dramatically reduced crime from within the community, reduced substance abuse, better attendances and performance at school, a slowly increasing level of real employment, and better performances at sporting events,’ Jeremy said.

‘There is increased respect for all within the community and a greater willingness to engage in the wider community and society.’

The program has helped 200 young people since it began in 2009 and all of them know the program pledge: ‘The hard work we do here replicates the discipline and routine that we carry out throughout the days, the weeks, the months and the years. If this is the hardest thing you will do today, well you’re going to have a good day.’

Find out more

Getting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander youth into regular school attendance and onto a pathway to a satisfying and successful career is a major priority for the Australian Government.

The Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet supports Clean Slate Without Prejudice through the Indigenous Advancement Strategy.

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