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
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
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.
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
the self-esteem and confidence of young people aged between 15-20
years who were no longer at school, with particular emphasis on
their interpersonal skills
- improve basic
numeracy and literacy skills
training and education options that would help them enter the
community involvement in the Centre's youth program and further
develop the Centre's network of community and government agencies.
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
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
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.
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
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.
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