Youth Collective will address some of the most complex issues facing multicultural youth in the year ahead, with education, language acquisition and youth homelessness to top the agenda in 2016.
Youth Collective is a collaborative initiative between SSI, MRCs and youth organisations.
Throughout 2015, Youth Collective targeted issues of youth employment, following strong feedback from young people who reported that barriers to the Australian workforce were impacting their settlement in Australia.
Employment will continue as a key theme in 2016, but Youth Collective will also aim to address a range of other topics to help young people integrate into the community.
Plans for a Youth Summit led by MRC partners is currently underway, along with a Global Refugee Youth Consultation, and an Amazing Race-themed community event to bring young people from different cultural backgrounds together.
The 20 Voices project, which launched with an employment symposium in October 2015, will also be extended to cover topics of youth homelessness, education and English language skills over the course of the year.
SSI Youth Projects Coordinator Dor Akech Achiek said Youth Collective had achieved pleasing outcomes in 2015 by helping young refugees and recent migrants to make friends, build connections, and learn new skills to prepare them for the workforce.
“Our vision for Youth Collective in 2016 is to create a more coordinated approach to service delivery and ensure that the voices of young people are heard. It’s their voice that matters the most,” he said.
“We are committed to working towards better outcomes for young people and achieving common goals with our partners. We are on the right course, but there is always room to improve.”
As a former refugee from South Sudan, Mr Achiek is well acquainted with the issues facing refugees, migrants and people seeking asylum. And with extensive experience as a youth worker – both in Australia and in refugee camps in Kenya – he can sympathise with the challenges young people face during resettlement.
First arriving in Australia in July 2003, Mr Achiek settled in Toowoomba before relocating to Sydney to connect with family and the Sudanese community. He remembers it as a humbling experience.
“I remember first arriving at Central train station with all of our bags. . . There were so many people, the city was completely foreign, and we had to start again,” he recalled. “It couldn’t have been uglier for us.”
But Mr Achiek wasted no time settling in to his new home and giving back to his local community.
Having hosted children’s drama clubs in Kenyan refugee camps, he used these skills in Sydney to lead scouts groups and help children develop skills outside of the schooling system. He also developed a drama program via the Auburn Community Development Network to help young people use performance to help cope with their trauma.
Mr Achiek also worked as a humanitarian youth worker for the Mount Druitt Ethnic Communities Agency (MECA) and Community Migrant Resource Centre (CMRC) before securing a role with SSI in 2014. More recently, he completed a Master’s Degree in International Law.
“I truly believe sharing my story can help people to realise what they are capable of,” Mr Achiek said.
“Having a commitment to education is where it all starts – it helped me tremendously in my settlement, and I am passionate about sharing that message with others. I take pride in my story, and sharing it with other young refugees to give them hope. It gives them inspiration to keep going.”
With a series of events and forums scheduled throughout 2016, Youth Collective is preparing for its busiest year since inception in 2014. Mr Achiek is also working alongside a steering committee of 14 other members to pursue new opportunities in the year ahead.
“I am extremely grateful for the support of all the youth workers from MRCs who have been at the forefront of this initiative and have made it their mission to improve service delivery outcomes for multicultural young people in NSW through innovative and collaborative initiatives that build confidence, resilience and leadership in young people,” Mr Achiek said.