Focus on youth in bushfire recovery initiatives

Bendigo, 28 June 2016: More than seven years on from the 2009 Victorian bushfires, the needs of young people affected by the fires remain complex, with evidence emerging of the ongoing impact of the fires on educational and employment opportunities for these young people.

FRRR’s School and Beyond Program, funded through the Victorian Bushfire Appeal Fund, helps to remove financial and psychological barriers to participation and completion of study and create pathways to vocational training and employment for youth impacted by the 2009 bushfires.

FRRR’s CEO, Natalie Egleton, explains that under the program, schools and groups that work with young people in fire-affected communities, register with FRRR and can then draw down on funds for specific initiatives to help keep young people engaged at school or transition to employment.

“Many of the young people who experienced the fires when they were in late primary or early secondary school are now coming toward the end of their formal education. We’ve heard from the local community that this has been a challenging time for some of those students, so this program aims to provide support to keep them at school and smooth the transition to work or further study,” Ms Egleton explained.

“The needs of these students have changed over time, and while there are some commonalities, some are unique to the individual. This program supports projects and initiatives identified by local schools and youth services to meet the needs of their local students. The requests we’ve seen to date emphasise the importance of this focus on long-term recovery for communities impacted by natural disasters.”

In the latest round of grants, three groups of students will be supported through grants totalling $87,156. Each program is quite different, reflecting the different needs within communities.

  • North East Support and Action for Youth Inc (NESAY) will engage a counsellor to support secondary school students at Marian College, Myrtleford P-12 and Bright P-12, many of whom are experiencing disconnection and relationship difficulties resulting in family conflict and school disengagement.
  • In a separate project, NESAY will partner with SOAR Youth Development Inc. to enable 12 students aged 14-17 years, who are at risk of disengaging from school,  from the Indigo, Wangaratta and Alpine shires to participate in SOAR, an adventure based program that aims to build leadership and resilience. This program has been highly successful in the Newcastle area of NSW.
  • Whittlesea Secondary College will run a student engagement project to better understand the issues and challenges students are facing, and then work with local service agencies to identify strategies that will increase school attendance, increase self-esteem and confidence, sense of purpose and self-worth among Year 9 and 10 students.

FRRR encourages other groups in fire-affected areas that work with young people to register with the program or contact their local partner in their area, as there is still $345,500 available to support affected youth.

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