What is it, why is it needed and how is the Museum involved?
Thelma Thomas is the Youth Worker for the Pacific Youth Reconnection Project, based within the Cultural Collections and Community Engagement team at the Australian Museum.
What is the Pacific Youth Reconnection Project?
In September 2012, I took on this new role here at the Museum. Funded by the Vincent Fairfax Foundation and Australian Museum Foundation, this project is aimed at addressing the over-representation of young people from the Pacific Diaspora in the NSW juvenile justice system, through initiatives which connect Pacific young and their communities to the Cultural Collections.
How did the project come about?
In 2009, a working partnership was established with the NSW Department of Juvenile Justice Fairfield Office, enabling ‘at-risk’ young people from Pacific communities to interact and reconnect with culturally significant artefacts. Statistics reveal that in 2006, young people from Pacific backgrounds made up 1.1% of the NSW population but constitute 7% of juvenile offenders on community based orders. As custodians of one of the world’s most significant Pacific cultural collections, we aim to encourage cultural awareness amongst young people from Pacific communities in NSW.
Why is it needed?
Building upon the initiatives previously conducted by Mr Dion Peita and the team, this project will continue to utilize the Pacific cultural collections to help reconnect marginalized Pacific young people with their cultural heritage. As part of a broader program of diversionary or remedial measures, exposure to cultural collections is intended to help address the symptoms of cultural dislocation including Juvenile Justice issues.
Has research been conducted?
A partnership between RMIT University, the Australian Museum, the Department of Attorney General and Justice (Juvenile Justice) and NSW Legal Aid as part of the Smart Services Cooperative Centre’s program was formed to conduct research into the Australian Museum and NSW Department of Attorney General and Justice (Juvenile Justice) Fairfield Office, Cultural Collections and Juvenile Justice Project. RMIT researchers observed 22 young Pacific people and their families at separate Museum visits and then interviewed and interacted with them, between August 2011 and August 2012. This report will be available in 2013.
Who are the other partners?
The Pacific Youth Reconnection Project has worked with the NSW Department of Attorney General and Justice (Juvenile Justice) Petersham office, Youth Block in Camperdown, Frank Baxter Detention Centre and Shine. Getting out into the community and conducting outreach initiatives is a key activity of the Pacific Youth Reconnection Project.
In 2013 the Pacific Youth Reconnection Project will continue to utilize the Pacific collections to reconnect marginalized Pacific youth with their cultural heritage and contribute towards a positive self-identity. In partnership with other Government and non-government organizations, the Pacific Youth Reconnection project will lead and develop new initiatives aimed at connecting marginalized young people from the Pacific Diaspora in NSW with the Australian Museum’s cultural collections through on –site visits, outreach initiatives, community events and workshops.
Thelma's position is funded by the Vincent Fairfax Foundation and Australian Museum Foundation.