Proud Wiradjuri woman Lynelle Elliott is using the transformative power of the arts to help young Indigenous men at Kariong’s Frank Baxter Youth Justice Centre.
The TAFE NSW Newcastle graduate works with the youth at the Centre, aged 16 to 21 years, to develop their creative skills and cultural understandings in order to assist them gain employment or go onto further study.
The Youth Justice Centre accommodates young offenders in custody and offers a range of health, educational and spiritual services to the young people, as well as individual case management and interventions to address offending behaviour, specialised counselling, and training in job and living skills.
Research has shown, the availability of Indigenous role models for young Aboriginal people has been recognised as pivotal to their behaviour.[i]
Ms Elliott graduated from a Diploma in Visual Arts in 2019 and said it was her TAFE NSW teacher who inspired her to use art for the education and growth of the community.
“My TAFE NSW teacher was a wonderful Aboriginal man of knowledge and culture who strongly believed that our continued personal growth and development was essential, and that each of us had a role to play in the education and growth of the next generation.
“I have learnt during my time at both TAFE NSW and working at the Youth Justice Centre that the key in the process of rehabilitation is being able to see yourself as something other than a criminal.
“The arts do not depend on academic education or other prerequisites; anyone can participate.”
Research conducted by the Australian Education Corrections Association has found in correctional facilities decisions are made for individuals, there is a pressure to conform and real life is suspended. The arts counter by encouraging people to make decisions, have enthusiasm and take risks and responsibility. This prepares offenders for reintegration into society.[ii]
Accomplishing a variety of visual arts skills with the young men including weaving, painting and creating sculptures, Ms Elliott said that she has observed a real change in youth over time in their willingness to open up, participate and try new things.
“The arts develop the ability to see the world from different perspectives, encourage taking positive risks and allow discovery of hidden skills and talents.”
Prior to studying a Diploma Ms Elliott completed a Certificate III in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Cultural Arts in 2017.
Current students will continue to study the Diploma of Visual Arts at TAFE NSW this term using a combination of web conferencing technology and self-initiated process of painting. This type of connected learning supports social distancing, while enabling students to progress their studies.
TAFE NSW has adopted connected learning as a new mode of delivery because it supports social distancing during COVID-19 and allows students to be connected to their teacher.
For more information about TAFE NSW courses, please visit www.tafensw.com.au or call 131 601.
Media contact: Sarah Lievore, TAFE NSW Media Officer, firstname.lastname@example.org
[i] Yarning the way, The Role of Indigenous Role Models, June 2018 https://www.ncsehe.edu.au/wp-content/uploads/2018/10/76_MareeGruppetta_Accessible.pdf