Party Down Productions (PDP) is based at The Woden School (TWS) and is run by young people with disability aged 12 -18 years. PDP is the brain-child of TWS Youth Support Worker, Luke Ferguson, and was developed as a school-wide approach to using music and dance to build personal confidence, celebrate diversity and promote social inclusion of people with disability in the ACT. PDP empowers TWS’s young people to be involved in all aspects of event planning and implementation, including using photoshop to make posters, setting playlists according to theme and/or target audience, technical set-up, pack-down and ‘rockin’ the mic’ as DJ’s. PDP’s equitable rotation of student DJ’s result in weekly dance parties at The Woden School, consistently attended by students and staff. Thursday disco’s result in an energetic and vibrant atmosphere throughout the school, positively impacting everyone involved. PDP have worked hard to build and maintain partnerships in the wider Canberra community. Our student DJ’s host dance party events at off-site locations including primary and high schools, sporting events such as ‘Be The Best You Can Be’, and even the Yogie Awards. Young people across the ACT have benefited from the positive and inclusive involvement a partnership with PDP brings to the community. PDP uses the power of music to break down barriers, remove stigma and enhance self esteem of young people with disability, shifting the focus to their innate ability to spark joy in the lives of those around them. There’s nothing else like PDP in Canberra, and TWS students thrive on the positive attention they receive as a result!
Across Term 1 and 2, 2019 the YWCA Canberra Youth Engagement Team worked with Calwell High School to develop a weekly LGBTQIA psychosocial group within the school. The school and the ACT Health School Nurse identified and encouraged several young people to be part of the group.
YWCA Canberra worked with the young people to develop the foundations of the group – identifying their purpose, goals and establishing a safe space for the students to be their authentic selves. The young people had named their group SAGA – Sexuality and Gender Alliance, developed a shared understanding of their purpose. Through the term the young people developed a safe space and negotiated with the school to have non-gendered toilets available to students.
With the foundations in place YWCA Canberra consolidated the group through a project that would raise understanding and awareness of SAGA group for other students in the school, with a small budget. SAGA members were actively involved and took ownership of the project direction and outcomes. They brainstormed ideas and negotiated to develop SAGA hoodies to identify them as mentors to others in the school. The group developed a project proposal to present to the Principal and Executive team, which was accepted. Through the project the young people researched and learnt about ethical clothing, small business operation, financial management, group decision making, and Canberra clothing businesses. They organised and promoted several fundraising sausage sizzles to fully finance the project. The group worked together to create two designs: a SAGA logo incorporating the school mascot, the galah, and year specific design.
The designs were approved by Calwell High School and the hoodies are now accepted school uniform. The SAGA group has continued without the ongoing facilitation by YWCA Canberra, the group is held during lunchtime with a teacher and open to other students within the school.
Belconnen Community Service Youth Engagement has a history of effectively involving young people in their service design. 2018 has seen this become more integrated and involved, with leadership and input from young people actively shaping the service.
BCS Youth Engagement runs quarterly consultations at its youth centre, which are integral to the planning of events, supports, activities and the general culture of the youth centre. When young people suggest activities, workers assist them in planning and facilitating the activity. Revitalising the planning and participation process in this way has helped young people build skills and confidence, and created a strengthened sense of community and peer support in the centre.
To create further ownership and investment in their local youth service, young people are also actively encouraged to submit potential interview questions when new workers are hired. Consultations with students are held in schools prior to commencing service delivery in the forms of surveys, friendly chats and focus groups, allowing for informed decisions about programs that align with their needs and interests.
When receiving individual support, participants are given the opportunity and encouragement to reflect on what it is they would like to achieve, even if it is in contrast to what’s been included in their referral. Ensuring that young people have full participatory control over their support is paramount to the continually positive outcomes achieved.
By placing youth participation at the forefront of their work, BCS Youth Engagement have achieved phenomenal outcomes and created a lasting sense of inclusion, respect and community among the young people involved.