More than five years ago, Clunes Neighbourhood House partnered with the State Government to undertake research to find out what issues impacted on the livability and prosperity of our community. In a series of interviews with more than 50 businesses and individuals across Hepburn Shire (particularly in Clunes) the research showed that aspirations, education and soft skills like flexibility, problem solving creativity and communication lay at the heart of a person's employability and ultimately, future wellbeing.
Photo supplied by Clunes Neighbourhood House. Representatives from Step Up, Djerriwarrh, West@Work and Ladder.
Leading from Behind
Clunes, despite our historic beauty, rich landscape and 'make it happen' culture, statistically faces an up hill battle. The third lowest socio-economic postcode in the state, our community has experienced generations of unemployment and low participation in education. When that study was completed in 2017, Clunes young people were three times less likely to graduate from high school than their peers. That's double the 1.5 rate that is typically seen in regional areas.
The reasons behind these statistics were complex (social connections, options, transport - you name it) before COVID. Now the pandemic has added a whole new layer, but it's brought opportunity along with it as well.
Understanding leads to Readiness
The research we undertook in 2017 has informed a big part of Clunes Neighbourhood House's strategy and approach to programming since then. So has an important Australian Report produced by KPMG for the Regional Policy Advisory Committee in Victoria. It showed that multi-faceted approaches (at all ages/stages) with significant levels of community collaboration were likely to have the most impact. We took this to heart. We have used this approach to pick and respond to opportunities for Clunes that ranged from major programs like Art Attack, to smaller initiatives such as supporting a group of young women to apply and complete higher studies. We've deliberately linked these initiatives with our other community activities to create layers of support and connections locally - but the obstacles are big and attracting help from experts beyond our town's tiny border hasn't always been easy.
Ironically, in a time when the whole world is still finding it's feet as we open up with COVID, our experience, local assets and connections mean we are well placed to work with knowledgable partners who can help us accelerate support for young people in ways we've never been able to before!
Last week Clunes Neighbourhood House met with Djerriwarrh Community & Education Services, Ladder Step Up (major AFL leadership program), West@Work and Jobs Victoria advocates to discuss bringing Ladder Step Up to Clunes. Currently delivered in Sydney and the Latrobe Valley, these key organisations are keen to collaborate with our community (!!) to assist local young people from 15 - 25 years succeed at whatever they want to achieve. Together we will be holding an information session for those interested in participating on Tuesday, 16th November 2021 at 1.30pm - 2.30pm in the upstairs reception room at BOOM Clunes.
If you are interested in attending please book online or call 53454078. Transport is available if you need a lift. Participants from other parts of the shire and neighbouring shires are eligible (some criteria - not geographic - does apply) to be involved. Throughout the program we'll find ways to assist people with transport to Clunes.
Why is this a Big Deal?
Thanks to these partners, Clunes will soon become one of just three Ladder Step Up programs delivered nationally - just at a time when many people need it most. This pandemic has been hard, but it's harder still when you are just beginning your career and your last years of school have been disrupted, the usual social connections haven't been formed and you are feeling a bit flat.
If you know someone who could benefit from this program, share this and shout out loud. For further information email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 53454078.
Some of the opportunities that will spin out of this program include:
Easing of practical barriers - assistance with transport, equipment...
Mentor support - during the program and beyond
Chance to meet AFL and AFLW players/excursions
Connections to local support, as well as wider support circles
To be eligible you need to be 15 - 25 years. Not currently studying or employed. Be interested in re-engaging. Ready to explore new opportunities. Not sure you are eligible? Just call and ask. You'd be surprised what we can work out.
AUTHOR: Lana de Kort.