Reaching children through music, digital media and sport
Young people living in remote, rural and under-serviced urban areas across Australian don’t always have access to the health and education services they need. They can also have less access to new technologies or social activities such as music events, creative programs and sporting competitions, resulting in many young people feeling isolated, marginalised and left behind.
Our Mobile Youth Van (M.Y.van) program is an innovative education and child protection program supporting some of Australia's most vulnerable and hard-to-reach children through music, digital media and sport.
Why engaging with remote and regional youth is important
There are hundreds of towns across Australia with a population of less than 5,000 people. The decline in community services in these remote towns is causing many issues for young people relating to mental health, family and community violence, community safety, substance misuse, nutrition and social connectedness.
Furthermore, young people living in remote, rural and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities are recording the lowest rates of school attendance and completion in the country. With Australia’s future relying heavily on rural economies, it is vital that we empower young people in these areas to pursue education and training opportunities that will help them access jobs and break the cycle of disadvantage in remote communities.
Save the Children’s M.Y.van program
M.Y.van is used for a variety of purposes such as an alternative classroom during the day, and as an engagement service that gets young people off the streets and reduces anti-social behaviour at night. It also enables Save the Children to run school holiday programs, youth festivals and sports events and is an integral part of our youth engagement programs in Australia.
M.Y.van is genuinely mobile and can operate out of a park, youth centre, sports ground, school or anywhere children and young people congregate. Our health promotion and creative arts workshops use state-of-the-art digital technology to help children to explore issues that affect them.
In many communities, we're also working closely with local Elders to run workshops on Aboriginal language preservation, which has proven to boost self-esteem and connection to country and culture among young Aboriginal people.
A safe space for Marama
"I don't want bad things to happen to us. I don't want any more shootings. Or people drinking all over the streets. Because I like our community clean." - Marama, 11 years old
Marama* is a kind-hearted girl. Eleven years old and tall for her age, she flashes a beautiful smile when she talks about coming to the Mobile Youth Van (M.Y.van) program in Claymore, New South Wales.
"The youth workers help me if I'm struggling and they teach us new skills," Marama says. "I love it!"
When Save the Children first started working in Claymore, we talked to young people in the area about how they felt about their community. While there were positive aspects, many were also concerned about crime, violence, drug use, family breakdowns and financial hardship.
However, here at the park with the M.Y.van youth workers, life is safe and fun. Since she started coming to the program regularly, Marama's formed strong relationships with our M.Y.van youth workers. Recently, they were able to help her through a very difficult situation, providing advice when she was bullied at school.
"They helped me tell other people in my family when I was being hurt by someone," Marama says.
For many of the young people attending M.Y.van, our youth workers are the only adults they trust outside their family. But the program doesn’t just benefit young people.
Marama's mother also comes to the M.Y.van program regularly, and our youth workers have referred her to additional family support services, including parental education and home care support services. The program is making a big difference for Marama's family.
How we know we’re making a difference
Since its launch in 2012, M.Y.Van has reached thousands of young people across New South Wales and Victoria. The key to M.Y.van's success is its ability to engage young people through fun, interactive games, technology and caring youth workers who understand the issues children face.
Our interactive and educational program provides a safe place for young people to learn, and helps them to stay away from negative and harmful behaviours.
*Name has been changed
Photos: Robert McKechnie/Save the Children Australia