August, 31 2012
Port Hedland
John Elliott



I’ve been here since the end of 2005 and I’m originally from New Zealand. My Mum was doing outback nursing in the Kimberley’s and in November 2005 I went to visit her in Mulan and Balgo which are a remote communities where I did some relief teaching then some youth work. I stayed over the summer for three months then I came through Hedland to see my dad for three months and that was seven years ago.  For most New Zealanders it seems they end up in Hedland because they know someone already based here and wish to explore the many opportunities available.

I got a job at the Youth Involvement Council (YIC) which is a not for profit community organisation which provides essential youth services. I started at the Youth Accommodation Program and since then have worked in every program across the organisation but I never thought I would end up running YIC. With the help of a dedicated team and a supportive Board of Management I manage five main programs, four annual events and a new program that is set to start in 2013. We provide support to all youth but work primarily with the Indigenous community.   Our youth workers encourage youth to become engaged with their community and familiarise themselves with pockets of the community that are foreign to them and accompanying them to places they wouldn’t usually go including other community organisations, the local library and various sporting associations.  The main aim is to improve life pathways into the future and we understand that education is a key to this.

BHP Billiton supports us in all our annual events and two programs named Birds and Bees and Education.  Our education programs started in September 2010 with seed funding from BHP Billiton and we are pleased to have signed a three year contract with them at the end of 2012 securing ongoing success for these programs until 2015. ‘Ready Steady Be Deadly’ works with 8 – 12 year olds to ensure these young people make a successful transition into high school because that is where many of them are falling out of the formal education system. Our ‘Deadly Dreams’ program targets children who spend more time in jail than in school. We aim to work with them the year before high school to explain how things happen in the high school environment as well as building their confidence and literacy.  South Hedland Primary School brings eight selected students over for an hour and they learn in smaller groups. It is our intention that we compliment the great work already being done by the Education Department.  We also provide attendance bus services during the school terms to transport families that have low attendance rates.

We run a Youth Accommodation Program (YAP) which provides crisis accommodation and case management for youth aged 15-25 who are homeless and often have complex issues.  They get help with direction and we can teach them life lessons to recover and move on.  We also have the Lawson Street Youth Centre which operates as a semi structured drop in centre every afternoon for youth aged 10-17.  The renowned Mingle Mob program is also a vital service however we struggle to secure ongoing funding for our street patrols.  Working with children who have challenging circumstances can be difficult and sometimes feels like you’re not getting anywhere very fast but it’s the small wins we have to stay focused on.  Feeling like you can make a difference to a young person’s life is a great feeling.

I think it is important to have breaks from work.  I travel home once a year to New Zealand as food for my soul. Bali is also close and it is a great place to relax. Work will always be there but I am learning to keep a healthy balance so I can continue giving 100% to my job.  I definitely love my job and Hedland but I also look forward to moving home at some stage and helping my own people.

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