15 April 2024

Mission Australia gets behind the next generation for Youth Week in Wagga

| Chris Roe
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Mission Australia's Simon Stephen and June Tusiupu are gearing up for Youth Week in Wagga.

Mission Australia’s Simon Stephen and June Tusiupu are gearing up for Youth Week in Wagga. Photo: Chris Roe.

The team from Mission Australia is putting the spotlight on Wagga’s next generation with back-to-back events during Youth Week.

Youth Week runs from 11 to 21 April with Youth Homelessness Matters Day in the middle on Wednesday 17 April.

Mission Australia will stage a walk to raise awareness for Riverina kids in crisis on Wednesday and on Thursday there will be a community ‘fun day’ at Chambers Park in Tolland.

Senior Case Manager and Youth Week Fun Day Organiser June Tusiupu said it was both a chance to celebrate and to connect with services in the community.

“Obviously it’s a free event and we’ve got heaps there with prizes and raffles, three-on-three basketball and all sorts of live entertainment,” she said.

“We’ve got a band from Kooringal High, Wollundry Dreaming’s gonna be doing traditional dance and the Fijian community’s coming as well and they will also be doing a performance.

“We’ll have all the local services like mental health, employment services and youth services just to have a chat with people and let them know what’s available.”

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A free bus service will pick up and drop off from Ashmont and Kooringal and June hopes it’s something that can help motivate kids who have become stuck in a rut.

“We want to show them that there are services out here, and we know people struggle but we want to say – hey, there is someone that they can talk to and connect them with financial support and teach them how to access services as well as get them learning new skills,” she said.

June also works with the Youth on Track program providing support to at-risk teenagers and their families who are doing it tough.

She said limited youth recreation facilities and a lack of direction were common complaints.

“I think a lot of them just get bored or they get stuck and they just don’t know what else is out there,” she reflected.

“I think some of them feel like there’s a lot of judgement as well when they go to certain places outside their area and, for a lot of them, there’s no transport so it’s not easy to get from, say, out at Ashmont to the PCYC.”

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Cost-of-living pressures have seen a spike in the number of people looking for support across the Riverina and things are expected to get tougher through winter.

Madison Havenstein from the Child Youth and Family Services program said they would be walking the Wiradjuri Track from Higgins Avenue to Wagga Beach on Wednesday to raise awareness.

“Basically it’s just to advocate and spread awareness about the homelessness crisis that a lot of youth are experiencing in Wagga and in the Riverina currently,” she said, explaining that older teens in particular can fall through the cracks in the system.

“The challenge for youth that are experiencing homelessness is that there aren’t very many options or avenues for them to turn to,” Madison said.

“There’s quite a big gap once children turn the age of 17 and they really don’t get the support from DCJ (NSW Department of Communities and Justice) to help them with their homelessness.

“They aren’t eligible for housing, they aren’t eligible for Link2home and, if they are under the age of 18, they just don’t meet the criteria to be able to get that support.”

The walk on Wednesday 17 April kicks off at 11:30 am and will finish with a barbecue at Wagga Beach.

The Youth Week Fun Day goes from 10 am to 2 pm on 18 April at Chambers Park in Tolland.

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