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Deniliquin Council for Social Development Inc

Deniliquin's first internet café was available through the Stepping Stones project, which offered an expanded range of education and training activities for young people. The project was particularly successful with a group of 12 early-school leavers, some of whom were juvenile offenders. An unstructured approach to the acquisition of skills allowed tutors to address the individual needs of each participant.

Background

Deniliquin is typical of rural and remote areas in Australia in that it lacks adequate social infrastructure and support services for young people. For example, there is no youth centre, it is too small to attract funding for a Police Citizens Youth Club, and has seen the Council withdraw funding for the single youth worker who did provide some outreach support.

The Deniliquin Council for Social Development is one agency that provides some services for young people, e.g. a Time Out program for two days a week. The Council inherited resources from the former Skillshare Centre. These include a fully equipped activities room, some computers and administrative resources. During the two days of the Time Out program, young people use the Council as a "drop-in centre".

The Council was keen to expand this program to address the needs of unemployed young people who have come into contact with the criminal justice system. Most have language, literacy and numeracy difficulties, others have drug and alcohol related problems, and some are on disability pensions. The Council also wanted to provide services for young Aboriginal people in the area.

Project Objectives

The Strategic Pilot Project allowed the Council to conduct the Stepping Stones Project, whose aims were to:

  • · establish Deniliquin's first internet café by providing access to computers and the internet
  • increase the self-esteem and confidence of young people aged between 15-20 years who were no longer at school, with particular emphasis on juvenile offenders
  • improve their interpersonal skills
  • improve basic numeracy and literacy skills
  • identify training and education options that would help them enter the workforce
  • increase community involvement in the Centre's youth program and further develop the Centre's network of community and government agencies.

Project Activities

The Centre ran the Stepping Stones Project for two days a week, so that, along with the Time Out program, the drop-in centre operated four days a week.

The Centre adopted an unstructured approach to skills development. Twelve young people from the target group were given access to computers and the internet, with basic instruction made available if required. They also had access to art, music and cooking tuition, had the opportunity to assist Greening Australia in its regeneration work and could develop a vegetable plot within the grounds of the centre.

Activities focused on practical living skills such as cooking and developing and working to a budget. A drug and alcohol counsellor worked with the participants for a short period each week. The preparation of resumes, media interpretation, games and the RTA licensing test, were used to develop language, literacy and numeracy skills. Job seeking assistance and support was provided if appropriate, as was information and referral support on further education and training opportunities.

Project Outcomes

All 12 participants were enrolled in distance learning programs to complete studies at Years 7-11 without returning to the schools they had left, either voluntarily or through suspension. By the end of the project, seven were still enrolled.

One young man was accepted into a long-term rehabilitation centre that caters specifically for adolescents. All participants produced a resume to assist with job applications.

Some participants had to attend the project as a condition of their bond - a reflection of the status the project achieved among local service providers.

Despite the fact that the local Land Council was without an administrator during the life of the project, several Aboriginal participants accessed the services through other referral channels.

Both staff and participants said the project led to increased self-esteem and self-confidence amongst participants. In project evaluation surveys, young people said they were more confident and assertive, had become disciplined in their study and work habits and were socialising more within the community.

Success Factors


The project succeeded because staff had a good rapport with the participants, and played an important role in encouraging them to make changes in their attitude and lifestyle. A strong referral network also contributed to the project's success, with the Centre and its services being seen as a vital part of the community's social infrastructure.

The flexibility of the unstructured approach to skills acquisition allowed staff to address the individual needs of each participant and to expand the range of activities on offer. The internet café was a particular feature of the additional services.

Possible Improvements

Overall, staff would not alter the way they ran the project. However, they would like to see Stepping Stones recognised as an approved program for the activity test administered by Centrelink

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