Focus on Indigenous youth in Frankston North by Liz Rogers

Cultural Connections is a participant based program operating from the North Frankston Community Centre and targets Aboriginal, Torres Strait Islander, Maori and Pacific Islander youth from 15 to 25 years old who have been disengaged (or who are at risk of disengaging) from school, family, community or culture. The program is facilitated by Frankston Council officers Jeremy Nikora (Cultural Connections project officer) and Grant Lea (Aboriginal youth health officer) plus Pacific Island and Aboriginal leaders and elders, a steering committee made up of elders, local agencies and Frankston Council.

In operation since September 16 this year, the program offers individual development strategies to youth and supports them with alternative pathways to education and employment where traditional pathways have failed. Some of the clients have had encounters with the justice system and some just need guidance to help figure out who they are. The group has room for 20, but Frankston Council hopes to have a positive impact on the wider local community through their cultural events and education programs, held at the community centre and Narim Marr Djambana respectively.

Both Jeremy and Grant have wide experience with mentoring youth, promoting cultural awareness and assisting families. Jeremy has worked on multiple levels, mainly within the Maori and Pacific Island (MPI) communities in a mentoring capacity to youth within the justice system. He sits on a number of community and cultural committees and is regularly consulted to help with MPI community issues, such as the current APEX youth crime wave.  He is also a member of, and tutor in, a couple of Maori performing groups and hopes to encourage and support cultural self resilience within all Polynesian youth who have left their cultural foundations back in New Zealand or the Pacific region.

Grant is a Wulli Wulli and Darumbal man of the Kulin Nation in Queensland and has travelled most of the country. After going back to university in his 30s to do a teaching degree, he has taught high school maths, worked with street kids, had a stint in a youth detention facility and worked with The Brotherhood of St Laurence as an Aboriginal case manager for Youth Connections. He now works with the entire Aboriginal community to help provide a better health service.

If you think you might benefit from participating in the Cultural Connections program with Jeremy and Grant, or know someone in the Frankston North area who may, contact Frankston Council on 9768 1367 - because life is all about feeling connected, isn’t it?