Ready, Set, Go in Numurkah

Nurmukah Community Learning Centre
Content warning: this article deals with sensitive themes including self harm and substance abuse that might be disturbing for some audiences.

Compared to their city-dwelling counterparts, young Australians living in rural and regional communities have higher rates of mental illness, suicide and addiction. 

This is the case too in Numurkah, a small regional town that lies 230 km north of Melbourne. But thankfully, the Numurkah Community Learning Centre works closely with the town's Secondary College to support disengaged secondary students, who are often dealing with mental health, disability and family-related issues. 

Established in 1980, Numurkah Community Learning Centre is a community based, not-for-profit organisation with a wide network of community, Government and education partners. It a registered training organisation and provides educational options for these young people, as well as offering adult education in partnership with ACE Training. The Centre also runs an accredited childcare facility that provides occasional care and preschool programs. It is governed by small voluntary committee of locals.

The Centre offered a foundation skills class, focused on language, numeracy and literacy skills, designed to improve the employability and community participation of at-risk youth. However, they identified that there was further training they could offer to improve the job readiness of the young participants. 

With a $4,970 grant from FRRR, funded by The William Buckland Foundation (managed by Equity Trustees), the Centre was able to run a series of four short courses. These included Construction Induction (White Card) – Work Safely in the Construction Industry; Level 2 First Aid; Food Handlers Certificate; and Responsible Service of Alcohol (RSA) training. The students also received training in Teen Mental Health First Aid and received personal protective equipment (PPE) to use in the community garden.

The training was delivered at the Community House, in an informal and familiar setting, which helped the students feel comfortable and engage in the learning opportunity. 

In acquitting the grant, Numurkah Secondary College’s Principal, Paul Tozer, commented that the community is working collectively to provide solutions to local challenges, thanks to the strong relationships between the School and the Numurkah Community Learning Centre. He wrote that this initiative has the potential to help break links of generational unemployment and poverty. 

"We learnt that when given an opportunity, most young people will grab it with two hands and take it. Our students all felt valued and proud of their achievements. We believe that this project was of great benefit to the students, our organisation and the community at large, due to the growing confidence of the young people and their willingness to join in community and organisation functions and activities."

Thanks to the effectiveness of this training, the students were all able to gain qualifications relevant to local employment opportunities. Some participants have secured part-time or casual employment locally, as a result of the courses. In addition, the young people have a greater awareness of mental health issues and how to address these, as well as how to communicate respectfully with peers. 

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