As part of my One Community role with the NRL, I have been able to be involved with a lot of different things. Over the past five weeks I’ve been working with a group of teenage girls who have made some not-so-good decisions and found themselves on the wrong side of the law.
Visiting a place like Sunning Hill, the Education and Training Centre of Juniperina, based in Sydney’s western suburbs, has been a learning curve. I always knew places like this existed for young teens that broke the law, but to be involved first-hand over a period of time has shown me the importance of having good decision-making skills, consistent support and surrounding yourself with people who set a good example to follow.
Juniperina Juvenile Justice Centre is Australia’s only centre for females. It accommodates females on control orders or who are remanded in custody. The centre offers a range of health and education services suited to females, including individual case management, specialised counselling and training in living, employment and parenting skills.
The purpose of my visits is to deliver a syllabus-linked program which sees the girls of Sunning Hill participate in a variety of classroom-based activities. I believe the activities may assist the girls in making the right decisions and necessary changes during their time spent in Juniperina and also throughout their transition back into the community.
Over the eight weeks, the program covers different themes relevant to the girls and their situations, including decision-making, goal-setting, peer pressure, communication skills and relationships. I make it clear to the girls that I’m not perfect – nobody’s perfect – and that everyone makes mistakes, but it’s more about learning from those mistakes and making the right choices.
The themes each week also allow me to open up about my own journey and personal experiences. I’ve shared some decisions I’ve made, (which have not always been the correct ones) peer pressure, gambling and alcohol-related experiences with the girls, to outline just some of obstacles I’ve had to face – also to let them know that a lot of people face the same challenges, but it’s more about how you bounce back from making the wrong decisions or choices.
By the end of the program I’d be happy to know that some of the girls have taken on board what’s been delivered week to week and upon release continue to work towards and hopefully reach their goals. On the other hand, I understand some of the girls are set in their ways and lack a good support network or role model on the outside.
We are hopeful that the working relationship between the NRL and Sunning Hill will continue into Term 2.