New leaders step forward

A Youth Ambassador Program has been launched across several Victorian schools in a bid to develop projects and fundraising initiatives to combat family violence.Senior secondary students are embarking on the program launched by McAuley Community Services for Women and supported by Young Mercy Links.
The program involves students in Years 10, 11 and 12 and is designed to nurture future leaders keen to participate and lead projects against family violence and in support of those affected.

“We love going out to schools and speaking about what we do and how we support women. But it is so important that young people can talk to their peers, within their own community, about family violence. These are the men and women who will drive this issue in the future,” said Katherine Romei, McAuley Community Services for Women’s Schools worker.

“The students we have recruited so far are very passionate and engaged with the topic. We are very fortunate that teachers at these schools are also committed to working on the issues and supporting the students in their projects.”

The program involves several stages starting with an information session delivered by McAuley Community Services for Women staff. Interested students then work directly with teachers, usually as part of the school’s social justice curriculum, to develop an advocacy project and a fundraising project. Students form each school support one another as a team, but each must develop their own programs.

Katherine said the program had the potential to unearth some creative ways of creating awareness across a range of ages and in new settings.

“We want the students to identify the group they want to reach. So it might be their school community, sporting club, parish or other community group,” Katherine said.

It is hoped that the Youth Ambassador Program will also forge important links with Young Mercy Links, which currently supports women at McAuley House.

Several Catholic Schools, some with links to the Sisters of Mercy, have embarked on the project and several students have committed to being Youth Ambassadors.

“Once we have a core group of students identified across the schools we will bring them together at Young Mercy Links and offer ideas and support and help students refine their projects,” Katherine said.

Many schools have a rich tradition of supporting McAuley Community Services for Women, a ministry of the Sisters of Mercy. Two years ago students from Our Lady of Mercy College developed a project called,No Place Called Home, which explored the implications of family violence and homelessness by first raising awareness throughout the school. This awareness-raising campaign, called look up look down, involved the creative design and placement around the school and gates of posters and material featuring information, case studies and statistics. Look up look down was followed by fundraising through a sponsored community breakfast.