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Meerteeyt Marrang Indigenous Youth Camp

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Meerteeyt Marrang Indigenous Youth Camp

The Meerteeyt Marrang (Clasped Hands) project was established in 2004 as a way to foster mutual trust, understanding and respect between Victoria Police and the Aboriginal Community in the Colac and Surf Coast region of Victoria, Australia.

The program, an informal partnership between the Colac branches of Parks Victoria and the Victoria Police, delivers key messages to indigenous youth regarding leadership, cultural identity, the natural environment and the importance of education for careers such as park ranger and police officer.

For the past three years Meerteeyt Marrang has run an annual Indigenous Youth Camp, which connects young indigenous people and ‘at risk’ youth with nature and culture for social health and wellbeing outcomes. The 2010 surf camp, held in Kennett River in November, had a ‘Waves and Culture’ theme, and involved other stakeholders including Surfing Victoria, Surf Life Saving Victoria and Football Federation Victoria. The camp is endorsed by Gunditjmara and Kirrae Whurrong Elders.

  • indigenous_beach_football

Aims of the program
The camp aims to improve relations between police and Parks Victoria staff and young people from the Colac and Surf Coast area, some of whom are on the verge of involvement with the criminal justice system. It addresses concerns within the area’s Aboriginal Community that many indigenous youth are choosing unhealthy and sedentary lifestyles as a result of little exposure to healthy habits and exercise. The camp is now a diversion program for the Colac Magistrates Court for youth requiring assistance to avoid the criminal justice system.

It’s hoped that as a general liaison event between police and indigenous and other young people, the camp will achieve the outcomes of building effective partnerships and relationships so that there is a greater understanding, tolerance and trust that is developed between the two groups involved. It also fulfils one of Parks Victoria’s key agendas of working with indigenous communities and facilitating their connection with Country.

One of the program’s organisers, Parks Victoria’s Colac Ranger Team Leader John Clark, emphasises the importance of the partnership between Parks Victoria and Victoria Police in making the program a success. He says although the two organisations approach the project from different backgrounds, ‘there’s a common ideal that we’re both working for – and that’s healthy communities’.

Camp activities
The three-day camp offers young people a range of opportunities, including:

  • exposure to healthy lifestyles and diet;
  • exposure to youth mentors and successful indigenous community and government agencies;
  • exposure to cultural activities designed to expand awareness of cultural and ancestral heritage;
  • instruction in surfing, surf lifesaving and ocean skills;
  • links with Victoria Police, Parks Victoria and community members; and
  • the option to take on leadership roles within the camp environment.

Outcomes
Clarke says the response of the participants to the camp activities has been overwhelmingly positive. He says as typical teenagers they don’t speak much about how they’re feeling, but ‘I’m always amazed at how much energy they have – they’re difficult to keep up with.’

While there are no formal mechanisms in place to measure the longer term outcomes of the program, Clarke says many young people are spotted in the community playing soccer with the balls they’re given at camp, and reports have come back of participants asking their parents for surfboards! Camp organiser Terry Woodcroft, the Colac Police Youth Liaison Officer, stays in touch with many of the participants afterwards by connecting with them in their own space – on Facebook.

Future plans
Plans are underway for another camp in 2011, and both Parks Victoria and Victoria Police stakeholders have a number of proposals in the works to expand the program. Already side projects have been organised to take camp participants on day trips to Melbourne to visit the Museum of Victoria and the Victorian Heritage Trust. On a grander scale, Clarke says a proposal has been made to conduct a year-long program which takes young people on hiking trips in Victorian national parks and teaches them trekking and outdoor skills, in preparation to walk the Kokoda Trail in Papua New Guinea.

Clarke says it’s all about connecting young people with nature. ‘Many of them take for granted that the bush is out the back of their houses, but they have no awareness of what’s actually there in the bush. If this program can plant the seed – that maybe there is someone in the group who would like to become a marine biologist or a park ranger – then it’s been a success.’

 

8 comments

  • Leading Senior Constable Terry Woodcroft, Victoria Police Youth Resource Officer for Colac and Corangamite Shire says:

    I am very proud to be a part of this initiative and it is great to see this article out in the public domain. I would also like to acknowledge and thank Sergeant Nicholas Buenen, (Victoria Police Portfolio Aboriginal Liaison Officer for Colac Otway Shire) for his unswerving commitment to the camp. He and the great man John Clarke are driving forces for this program and should be congratulated on their determination and perseverance. TRW.

  • Taylah Walters says:

    That was one of the best camps I think I have ever been on. We learnt soo much about the indigenous ways of life….I would definatley so it again!

  • Marloo Thomas says:

    too deadly Yangamatta great program us mob have to get involved

  • Mick Douthat says:

    Well done you guys, what a great program.

  • Liam Clarke says:

    Gee i look good in that picture just in front of the water. (I’m the one in the middle)

  • Zoe Haysom says:

    Do you have any camps coming up this year and would you accept a youth from the Metropolitan region?

  • Nick BUENEN says:

    The Meerteeyt marrang waves and culture programme is happening again at Kennet River on the 15th 16th and 17th of November 2012. The partners in the event are Parks Victoria, Victoria police, Surfing Victoria.

    This year there will be a strong emphasis on re-establishing cultural ties with the land and the ocean as well as the surfing and outdoor activities. This is our 5 year of the camp as we are hoping for some fantastic outcomes for the participants.

    Any quereis can be directed to Nick Buenen or Terry WOODCROFT at Colac police on 52315599.


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