Gloucester student workshop

Spotlight: Increasing the voice of students at Gloucester High School

Who: Gloucester Local Drug Action Team

Where: Gloucester, NSW

What: Mentoring and education

In Gloucester, NSW, a picturesque town surrounded by mountains and green farmlands, the Alcohol and Drug Foundation (ADF) has supported the Gloucester Local Drug Action Team (LDAT) to increase student leadership through education in schools, youth mentoring and peer support.

The program is equipping today’s students with lifelong skills that will also impact their future resilience, decision making abilities and pathways to employment.

The challenge

Due to their isolated location, young people in Gloucester have limited access to support and personal development services and opportunities.

According to LDAT lead Blythe Quick, Project Officer Strategy and Engagement, at CatholicCare Social Services Hunter - Manning, feedback from community has suggested that while there are some dedicated service providers localised in community, providers traveling from Taree and Newcastle to support and offer further services are unable to maintain a consistent presence due to limited resources and capacity.

This gap was further highlighted by anecdotal evidence collected by Gloucester High, which showed that young people felt they had very few opportunities to upskill, not only for their current schooling but also post-school, into employment.

The response

“This led us (CatholicCare) to work with key local LDAT partners, including Gloucester High School, to provide education, mentoring and opportunities of growth and leadership for the young people of the Gloucester Community,” Blythe explained.

“Everyone was passionate about empowering young people to improve their skills and have a voice within the community.”

In partnership with Gloucester High School and CatholicCare, the LDAT engaged Mission Australia and Inner Directions, an organisation specialising in delivering youth mentoring and youth coaching, to increase student engagement and involvement in peer leadership by delivering workshops directly to students. 

The progress

Four workshops, engaging on average 16 students, were completed.

The workshop activities emphasised the importance of bringing people together, encouraging everyone to do their best, and being a friendly participant in activities. The workshops provided tools for students to increase their confidence and knowledge of the importance of peer support and peer leadership.

As a result of their positive experiences, many program graduates expressed a newfound willingness and positive outlook towards nominating for a leadership position when the opportunity arose later in the year.

All participants reported an increase in knowledge of peer support and felt they were provided with more information, resources and techniques to share with others and seek assistance.

Blythe said, “Throughout the workshops, students were able to build their confidence, make new friends and feel more connected.”

For young people these are all proven factors that help prevent the use and impact of alcohol and other drug harms.

Advice to other LDATs

With two completed Community Actions Plans under their belt and a third CAP now in development, this experienced LDAT has the following tips for others looking to have a positive impact with local youth.

Taking a collaborative and community-led approach that focuses on upskilling, support and education is key, according to Blythe.

She also recommends that LDATs take the opportunity to collaborate with their ADF Relationship Manager and draw on the many evidence-based toolkits and resources developed by the ADF to support the LDAT program.

“On many occasions we’ve shared the resources and tools available on the ADF’s website with the key stakeholders. These resources have also been incorporated in the delivery of the CAP, helping further increase and promote harm prevention and minimisation in Gloucester.”

The Gloucester LDAT is currently drafting its third Community Action Plan on the new digital LDAT platform, which links LDATs with the most appropriate evidence-based toolkit to guide their activities as well as appropriate evaluation measures.

The Gloucester LDAT is excited to deliver the next CAP with a goal to expand and strengthen stakeholder and community engagement.

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