Larrakia Nation partners with YMCA to provide culturally aware support for youth

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Welcome aboard William Hewitt – Cultural Coordinator

Late last year William Hewitt was recruited to cultural coordinator role through our Palmerston Family and Cultural Centre, and now spends four days a week at YMCA in Palmerston. “Being at the centre means I can create a bond with the youth” said William who knew a lot of the youth before starting in the role and is uncle to some of the regulars at the centre.

The Coordinator of the Palmerston Family and Cultural Centre, Kay Villaflor explained the skills required in the cultural coordinator role are diverse. She said on the one hand the cultural coordinator needs to be able to advocate and negotiate within YMCA for the best cultural interests of the youth, and on the other hand must be flexible and aware to create engaging programs.

“It was a hard position to fill because it requires a lot of skill to be able to operate in different environments. William has so much to give, and I want to acknowledge this, and want him to feel welcome, deadly, and solid.”

A job to be proud of 

For William, who has worked with youth in different roles, this is a job he is proud of. “They come to us to look for support and I am there to mentor and help” he said. “We’re also looking at the early stages of learning about employment too, some of the young people at the drop in centre have got their white card and driver’s license through the YMCA, and I believe we should link them up with pathways to seek work experience with local businesses.”

William believes it’s important to work with the youth in a style that appeals to them. “I work hard at bringing teaching into the program, and not to preach to the kids but to be that person that they can feel safe in approaching to seek help and support if they need it. We are giving them a bit of knowledge and teaching respect at the same time.”

Leading the way in creating culturally aware partnerships

Larrakia Nation greatly values partnerships and welcomes any opportunity for likeminded organisations to showcase their strengths. For Kay, this partnership is an opportunity to focus on the youth of Palmerston to achieve the desired outcomes set in our service agreement. William’s role is a perfect example of how the partnership between Larrakia Nation and the YMCA can facilitate meaningful engagements for our youth.

For the past two years Larrakia Nation has been able to support the YMCA with a full-time cultural coordinator. It’s been well received by the youth, and we’ve embedded a strong cultural footprint in the YMCA Drop in Centre (PYC) in Palmerston by offering support, role modelling and teaching for people aged 10-18 years who come to the centre.

“We have a long and strong working relationship with YMCA which is something we want to continue” said Kay. “Having a Larrakia Nation staff member permanently in the centre allows us to give a Larrakia perspective on decision making and planning regarding youth in Palmerston.

“Most of the youth at the Drop in Centre are Indigenous and having an Indigenous person on the ground helps to create a culturally safe environment for the kids” said Kay.

Embedded partnerships are a powerful approach

For Kay, partnerships are imperative for providing good community outreach. “Collective impact can’t be underestimated. In Palmerston we are a group of stakeholders working towards a goal – we all want the same outcome. We are all respecting what each group does and what they offer”.

Larrakia Nation is part of a successful partnership program in Palmerston where about 30 organisations work together to provide services that help families and kids in Palmerston.

In the future Kay would like to see more cultural coordinator roles in outreach organisations throughout the NT to support organisations in how to provide culturally appropriate services for Indigenous children and youth.