THE decision of the Derwent Valley Council to ask the Bridgewater Police and Community Youth Club to take over the management of the PCYC in New Norfolk was proving to be a great success, mayor Ben Shaw told last month’s council meeting.
Cr Shaw invited Bridgewater PCYC manager Justin Abrahams to address the meeting about the new arrangements for the Derwent Valley PCYC, based at the former New Norfolk Sports Centre.
Constable Abrahams said he lived in the Derwent Valley and had worked in the community between New Norfolk and Bridgewater since 1995. Despite being based at Bridgewater, his activities extended from New Norfolk to Claremont and Montrose and into the Southern Midlands as well.
He said the staff and volunteers of the Bridgewater PCYC were directing most of their attention to primary school-aged children as a means of early intervention. “There’s a bit of a methodology about us trying to engage youths younger, particularly the ones that are displaying or starting to demonstrate anti-social behaviours or things that are going to lead them to a point later in life where they’re just not going to be out to get a job,” he said.
“And if we can do it younger, we can eliminate a lot of heartache and problems later, and to a large degree we can save a lot of money doing it that way too. We’re not going to leave them festering along so that we’re trying to pick them up in the judicial system in 10 or 15 years time, hopefully we can try to turn a couple of them around now.”
Bridgewater PCYC president Rodney Graham, left, with Tammi and Justin Abrahams, and assistant manager Samantha Andrews with their 2019 Telstra Small Business Award.
Constable Abrahams said the PCYC had a history of focusing on physical education and while this was still a key attribute, it was also targeting community engagement and workforce readiness.
“Once a person hits 24, if they don’t have an accreditation or qualification there’s a 90% chance they are going to be unemployed for the rest of their life.” He said he had initially baulked at that statistic but it was borne out by his experiences. “So that’s why we’re struggling so hard to get these guys into something.”
The other major focus was the Safer Streets program, working to divert groups of up to 350 youths at risk of becoming young offenders. “At the end of the day, their school participation rates are up, their attitudes towards school while they’re there is up, their attendance is up.”
While sports coaches and fitness trainers continue to make up the majority of Bridgewater PCYC staff, they are augmented by youth workers, dancing instructors, community development workers, a driving instructor, social workers and a psychologist. The are also 32 volunteers in a wide range of roles.
The Derwent Valley PCYC in Third Ave, New Norfolk.
Referring specifically to the New Norfolk operation, Constable Abrahams said running the Derwent Valley facility had been a challenge. “It’s been a really challenging demographic and bunch of kids that we work with. That’s probably understating it slightly, it’s been tough.
“We’ve flooded the centre with staff, we’ve plugged our best youth workers into the gap to try to curb some behaviours and we’ve been doing that increasingly since the start of the year, but it is working. We are starting to see behavioural turnaround in less than 12 months, which is great. We’re really happy with that because it is not a quick thing.”
“The number and volume of kids that are coming in is really spiking. We started in February and if we got 10 kids in the drop-in centre in the afternoon that was a lot of kids,” he said. Recently the number has grown to more than 50.”
Councillors had no questions or comments for Constable Abrahams when given the opportunity. From the public gallery, Derwent Valley Tidy Towns Committee member Ian Lacey spoke about behavioural problems at Ellis Dean Reserve, and Derwent Valley Youth Future Action Team (D’FAT) facilitator Matt Hill commended the PCYC on its collaboritive approach.
Cr Shaw thanked Constable Abrahams for the presentation. “As a council group we’re really happy that we’ve decided to partner with the PCYC and the funding we have allocated … is being put to really good use,” he said.
The Derwent Valley PCYC, in Third Ave, New Norfolk, is open on weekdays from 1-5pm. More information can be found on its Facebook page.