In February 2009 a young man called Caleb Jarrett was stabbed to death in my town. There’s a court case going in Coffs Harbour around his death so I won’t go into too many details about it, but it was a devastating night that will have repercussions in our town for years. Racism and discrimination are rife around here and a case like this can strengthen the divide. Caleb was Aboriginal, the man charged with his murder is not.
Caleb was walking home with friends when he was stabbed several times. Each of the boys who were with him that night have suffered greatly at the loss of a close friend, and at the pain of having been there. They have each had a traumatic two years, going through a trial last year and now facing a second trial this year.
With no funding and no brief to be there, the staff at my local youth centre saw the boys’ pain and stepped in to support them. They have been there in every way they could for these boys, in a way that the police and legal system have not. If it was not for the youth centre, I believe wholeheartedly that at least some of these boys would have slipped on to a very lonely and angry path of self-destruction.
The Youthie is a small centre in Nambucca Heads, they support 12-25 year olds with whatever they need, as far as possible, and in a town like Nambucca the needs are pretty big.
Nambucca is a beautiful spot for a holiday divine beaches, lovely walks and enough cafes to get a reasonable coffee on a good day. It’s quiet and close enough to Coffs Harbour that you can fly here, or visit the Big Banana if you’re looking for holiday activities.
Nambucca is also classified as a disadvantaged area – high unemployment, low education levels, high levels of alcohol and drug dependency. If you’ve seen the movie Boy, that reminded me of many kids around here.
So the youth centre is not only useful for our town, it is essential. Often the Youthie is really doing the work of government agencies.
Yet despite this the youthie is always desperately searching for funding to keep the doors open and the staff are constantly unsure whether they’ll have a wage in a few months.
So I volunteered to go on the hunt for money. I travelled to Sydney and met with a few foundations and talked about what we do. Now it’s looking possible that they may have some support on the way, a local business and a foundation could possibly join forces to give some sense of stability to the centre in the way of core funding.
I wonder though how it can be in this country that a community organisation that does so much needs a volunteer to travel to the city and pleed its case. Surely it’s clear. Give them the money!