Swan City Youth Service LDAT in Western Australia is bringing in young people with the promise of free music recording sessions. At the end, they leave with much more than a CD.
“They make connections here, big time,” says workshop facilitator, youth worker and musician Ray Tanielu.
“That’s my favourite thing about this program. It’s all about engaging with them, the music stuff is secondary.”
“I would say seventy per cent of the kids come in solely for the music program, but then they talk about their issues with us. I link them to other services like Centrelink, alcohol and other drug services or mental health counselling. It's like family here.”
Despite having to shut down their weekly recording workshops because of the coronavirus pandemic, the youth service is still open for business.
“We are still here. Although the music program is on hold, we’re still supporting [the participants],” says Michael Kerr, CEO of Swan City Youth Service (SCYS).
“Even if they’re not coming into the youth centre, they can still talk to us or we can help with emergency relief and other things. Social isolation in these young people is a big fear for us, when we’ve done so much work to turn it around. Ray and the team make such a big difference to their lives.”
Though sad to put music recording sessions on hold, Ray, like Michael, is determined to continue to support the young people that rely on him.
“I’ll spend this time going through the songs we already have recorded and prepare for our end of year CD. The young people message me online all the time with questions about music or other things. We still have a lot contact,” says Ray.
SCYS has been running the music workshops for a few years now. Each year, a CD is produced with a selection of songs across a variety of genres and the young musicians perform a concert for family and friends, where everyone gets a go.
A few of the artists have even been invited to participate in other local events.
“I see the young people come in with social anxiety issues, they barely speak. I get excited when, by the end, they are standing on stage in front of 150 people performing. They’re engaged - communicating instead of being isolated. There’s a huge change," says Michael.
When workshops are running, each Tuesday sees around 20 to 25 young people come into the centre, aged from teens to early twenties. To reduce participation barriers, attendees are provided with Smartrider public transport cards, funded by the LDAT.
Workshops are facilitated Ray and his team. On top of his youth work qualifications, Ray also has alcohol and other drug specific training. He is at the studio all day each Tuesday that workshops are on, and students drop by throughout.
Often young people attend with songs they have already written. Ray records the music with them, then mixes and masters the track. Participants take home their song on a CD or as a digital file. Most of them are regulars that come every week.
“I'm a musician as well as a youth worker. It helps that they can talk to me about their issues, because I have the rapport with them through the music program. It’s a one-stop-shop, so to speak. We can help them out with whatever they need,” he explains.
The recent Community Action Plan funding the LDAT received will help the program continue to grow and broaden its horizons, which is good news to Hunter Pomery, Senior Community Development Officer at the Alcohol and Drug Foundation, who enjoys working with this fantastic LDAT.
“The SCYS LDAT has been preventing and minimising harms from alcohol and drugs in their community by creating a safe and supportive environment for youth to express themselves through music,” she says.
“Creating a sense of belonging and purpose amongst their youth was a high priority. SCYS has been able to achieve this, along with building trust and confidence between the facilitators and participants.”
The Swan City Youth Service LDAT is a partnership between Headspace Midland, Swan City Youth Service, Holyoake Midland, Mission Australia DAYS and City of Swan.
Other services that have created valuable connections with participants through the music program include Wungening Aboriginal Cooperation, Indigo Junction, Drug and Alcohol Youth Service and local alternative education schools.