With funding from the Office of Multicultural Affairs and Citizenship, and in partnership with 3 Seas Pacific Islander Body, Open Family Australia are trialling a new program in Melbourne’s South Eastern Suburbs. The Pacific Islander Youth Mentoring Program is targeted to young people of Pacific Islander backgrounds living within the municipal areas of Casey and Greater Dandenong who are experiencing complex issues such as:
- Family conflict;
- High levels of contact with police and the juvenile justice system;
- Low school retention rates and unemployment;
- Lack of access to services and support;
- Financial constraints and economic burdens;
- Social isolation and negative health and wellbeing outcomes; and
- Inter-generational concern about loss of culture and identity.
In addition to the socio-economic issues facing people in the region, members of the Pacific Islander community face additional difficulties as a result of not being able to access Permanent Residency status, including:
- Low rates of high school completion, partly due to young people entering the workforce due to the financial pressure facing parents once family tax payments cease when children reach the age of 16;
- No access to Centrelink benefits to assist during periods of unemployment; and
- Not being eligible for Austudy, HECS or HELP should they want to continue their education.
The program is staffed by two part-time workers who engage with Pacific Island youth who are currently disengaged from their community and support them through the process of completing school or other appropriate education pathways and seeking employment.