Reconnect Youth Support Program

Reconnect is a program aimed at helping young people aged between 12 and 18 who are at risk of homeless to feel safe and to re-engage with their family and their community. When young people feel scared, lonely or sad, Waltja will help them to think about the problems and the good things in their lives. Waltja helps young people to reconcile with family. If it is needed, we help them find a safe place to live, and help get them back into school, or training or work.

Waltja first started to run Reconnect in Papunya, Mt Liebig, Titjikala and Santa Teresa when we won a tender with the Australian Government back in 2001. Waltja has been running Reconnect since then. Reconnect Fieldworkers have been Linda Brookes for Papunya and Mount Liebig, and Natalie Keene and Allan O’Dea for Titjikala and Santa Teresa. Kate Lawrence is Program Manager.

We work with young people and also provide support to their family. This help includes getting an ID, birth certificate, driver’s licence, or help with school, Centrelink, police, court, or money issues. If the young person needs to come to Alice Springs to get help, we will also provide safe transport back home or to boarding school.

This year we focused on working with young people and their families and community organisations to keep young people safe and strong. We did a lot of work supporting young people to reconnect with school: senior school if it is available in their community, or other options including boarding school if there is no senior school.

Highlights
A major success has been to support young people from Titjikala, Santa Teresa, Mt Liebig and Papunya to return to school, enrol in and travel to boarding school and to stay at school. We have supported parents to be involved more in school as well. This has helped build positive attitudes among young people and their families about the importance of school and education.

Waltja worked with young people and their families to find out what people needed and then to plan activities through the year. We worked with other services in the community whenever possible. Activities included:
Return to school workshops.
Planning workshops to decide what activities young people are interested in and then how to organise them.
Cultural bush trips and camps to support young people to connect to culture and country.
Safe 4 Kids program. Mt Leibig community wanted every age group of children to take part and learn how to keep safe from child abuse and unwanted behaviour.
Women-only and men-only sexual health workshops.
Workshops in music, law and culture, TryaSkill, and Cook Well, Be Well.
Visits to the Mbantua Festival and Alice Springs Football Carnival.

Challenges
A big challenge in Mt Leibig and Titjikala is the lack of senior school, training and work choices for young people in the community. Young people must travel to boarding school to continue their education after Year 6. In Papunya, young people must travel to boarding school to continue their education after Year 10.

Over half of the Reconnect Workers’ time is taken up with supporting young people and their families to decide on school options, to stay at school and to cope with homesickness and school discipline.

Locally employed youth mentors made a big difference to Waltja’s youth services. Waltja will continue to look for funding to pay people who live in each community as project support workers in all our project budgets.

Waltja thanks these organisations for support for our youth activities:
Australian Government Department of Social Services
Australian Government Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet
NT Government Youth Vibe holiday program grants
Aboriginals Benefit Trust
CREATE Foundation

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