VOLUME 30 NUMBER 2 JUNE 2011

DRUMBEAT

In search of belonging

by Simon Faulkner

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DRUMBEAT is a flexible program that combines experiential learning with Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, and engages young people and adults who may be anxious or resistant to ‘talk based’ therapies. The DRUMBEAT program is taught to young people and adults across Australia in schools, youth services, drug and alcohol rehabilitation facilities, child protection residential facilities, mental health services, refugee trauma associations and prisons. Participants lift their self-esteem, learn to work cooperatively with others and are exposed to the therapeutic and recreational benefits of music. The program is a useful tool, effective at engaging a wide range of young people and practical in its application.

For people around the world, a positive connection to others in the community is a critical element for both the health of individuals and the meaning and happiness they get from their lives (Bruhn 2005). From our earliest days as infants, and throughout our lives, social connections play a critical role in our sense of security, place and belonging (Tavecchio & van IJzendoorn 1987).

For young people in Australia, the generic term “alienated” is widely used as a recognised “risk factor” for a range of problematic social outcomes including criminal behaviour, drug and alcohol misuse, and self-harm (Loxley et al. 2004). As the complexity of society increases, more and more people, young and old, are struggling to gain control over the meaning and direction of their lives and find their place and sense of belonging in the communities that surround them (Zubrick et al. 1997).

In 2002 I found myself in the Wheatbelt region of Western Australia working as a youth worker and addictions counsellor with many young people struggling to find their place in the world around them. The Wheatbelt is a large region lying between Perth and Kalgoorlie, approximately the size of the state of Tasmania. It is the home of the Noongar and Yamatji Aboriginal peoples who make up close to five per cent of the population. Regional Australia encapsulates many of the issues that lead people to struggle for a sense of belonging and connection to community. Many people have moved to the Wheatbelt region to avoid the complexity of city life, to find cheaper housing or to obtain manual labour on farms. Often they find themselves isolated, lonely and with limited access to support services (Hugo & Bell 1998).

Other issues prevalent in the Wheatbelt region that contributed to a growing case load for me and other human services workers in the area were the large numbers of broken families – where one or both parents were absent or facing significant social challenges of their own. Racism and poverty were also common stigmatising factors that led to increased social isolation for many people. My own experience in moving from Melbourne away from family and friends mirrored many of the issues faced by my clients – a lack of support networks and feelings of separation from those around me.


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Indigenous youth 24 times as likely to be locked up, research shows

The Productivity Commission’s Report on Government Services released today showed indigenous young people aged 10 to 17 were almost 24 times as likely as non-indigenous young people to be locked up in youth detention centres in 2012-13.  bit.ly/1CFMNzW

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Appointment of Acting ACYS Director

Dr. Chris Rayner, Lecturer in Inclusive Education, at the University of Tasmania has been appointed as the Acting Director for the Australian Clearinghouse of Youth Studies (ACYS) following the news that Dr. Jeremy Prichard was stepping down from the role.  bit.ly/1CiCDGT

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THE U-turn program for at-risk youth will not be funded beyond the end of June

Despite the Federal Government promising funding for four years a statement issued yesterday by Justice Minister Vanessa Goodwin said U-turn would be funded only for the rest of 2014-15.   bit.ly/1LoKnK5

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Budget must chart a fairer path back to surplus: ACOSS

The Australian Council of Social Service today urged the Federal Government to focus on restoring revenue by addressing inefficient tax arrangements, rather than through spending cuts, and chart a fairer path back to surplus in its second Budget. In its Budget submission released today, the peak community sector body has identified more than $13 billion of potential savings in the next financial year, rising to over $18 billion in 2016-17, through measures which it says restore the integrity of Australia's progressive tax system. bit.ly/1ByZYkS

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Can’t throw, can’t catch: Australian kids are losing that sporting edge

Australians like to think themselves as sporting and fit – a concept reinforced by the success of the country’s elite athletes. But evidence is emerging that Australian kids are falling behind their international peers and are performing worse in skills such as kicking, throwing, catching and jumping than they were 30 years ago.  bit.ly/1yOOpGr

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