‘Every town needs a youth centre’

Kellie BalaamNarrogin Observer
Alan Harrison, Mandy Richardson, Maureen Ugle, Dwayne Riley, Barbara Abraham, Ann Rintoul, Tracy Burrow and Tyson Williams at the Keys for Life session.
Camera IconAlan Harrison, Mandy Richardson, Maureen Ugle, Dwayne Riley, Barbara Abraham, Ann Rintoul, Tracy Burrow and Tyson Williams at the Keys for Life session. Credit: Kellie Balaam

Avon Community Services youth worker Mandy Richardson has been helping Narrogin’s youth for 16 months — and it is clear she is making an impact.

Ms Richardson works with troubled Narrogin youth from the ages of 12-25, helping them focus on their education including programs about smoking, sexual health, drugs and connecting to country.

When Ms Richardson started working at the centre, she was supporting six children.

Last month, she had 90 young people pass through the centre.

“They are good kids, some of them have been in and out of Banksia Juvenile Detention Centre their whole lives,” she said.

“I have formed very good relationships with the youth in Narrogin. If I don’t come in to work for whatever reason, the kids text me and genuinely worry for my wellbeing.”

Avon Community Services runs evening programs, with scooter workshops among the activities planned for youth to enjoy.

“We’re running swimming lessons on Thursday nights at the YMCA and Friday nights are spent at the skate park with a scooter workshop,” Ms Richardson said.

“These activities are definitely needed in the community because it’s great for the kids to have a laugh and a yarn.”

The free swimming lessons — a chance to learn swim survival skills — are attracting more than 50 people.

“I have formed very good relationships with the youth in Narrogin. If I don’t come in to work for whatever reason, the kids text me and genuinely worry for my wellbeing,” Ms Richardson said.
Camera Icon“I have formed very good relationships with the youth in Narrogin. If I don’t come in to work for whatever reason, the kids text me and genuinely worry for my wellbeing,” Ms Richardson said.

Ms Richardson is trying to get funding for new scooters so the scooter workshops can keep running.

“We got a grant from the Shire a while ago for 20 mountain bikes and the kids and I go riding around the bush at the Railway Dam. It’s good fun,” she said.

“It’s about teaching them life skills without them thinking they’re in a classroom.”

On Monday, Wheatbelt South regional consultant Ann Rintoul ran a Keys for Life lesson for kids wanting to get their L-plates.

The youth were encouraged to get their form of identification organised and to read through the information to prepare them to obtain a learner’s permit.

Barbara Abraham, 18, has been using the centre for a couple months and benefits from Ms Richardson’s support.

“Mandy has been a lot of help to me and my younger brother,” she said. “I feel better being here because Mandy encourages us to get out and do things.

“I wouldn’t know what to do if Mandy wasn’t here — she’s like family to us.”

Ms Richardson said the centre acted as a safe zone for young people.

“If something’s bothering them they know they can talk to me and get some help,” she said.

“If I can’t help them, then I know services that can and I lead them in the right direction.”

The Avon Community Services centre moved to its new site on Fairway Street seven months ago.

“Every town needs a youth centre where kids can just be kids,” Ms Richardson said.

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