Father Chris Riley on Social Inclusion Week

Social Inclusion Week takes place this month and will run from Saturday 21 to Sunday 29 November 2015. This is an annual initiative that encourages communities to reconnect with one another and gives people the opportunity to feel valued and connected to society.

Social isolation can often lead young people to engage in negative behaviour. In the past few months, there have been many articles about the increasing risk of Muslim extremist in Australia and young people being lured into joining terrorist organisations. The source of this problem is social isolation; young disaffected youth who lack a sense of belonging are more susceptible to being influenced by extremist groups who offer them a purpose.

As a community we need to join together to combat marginalisation and ensure that young people feel included in society. Social Inclusion Week is a good starting point, providing us with the opportunity to get involved in community events and parties for the benefit of young disadvantaged people.

In the long term, however, education is the key factor that is essential in breaking down the cycle of social isolation and its associated consequences.

Youth Off The Streets invest heavily in our youth education programs and activities, creating opportunities for young people to learn valuable skills and engage with one another.

Our annual National Scholarship Program, for example, financially assists young people to unlock their full potential and pair them with mentors to guide them through their educational journey. The scholarship celebrates young people’s talents and engages the community to take responsibility for young people who are suffering or at risk of suffering from poverty, disadvantage and marginalisation.

Our outreach programs engage and connect young people, giving them access to fun activities and programs including sports, music and dance, education, volunteering and community projects. These programs are all about connecting with local communities, building relationships and networks, addressing social isolation and exclusion by taking part in activities that help them meet local peers and better their community.

I believe that all young people should be given the chance to achieve their best. That is why we continue to work so hard to develop programs within our services to ensure that our young people feel included and valued, providing them with opportunities to engage in their local communities and society.

You too can do your part in the community, so get involved, volunteer, and connect with your local community, friends and family to support our young people during Social Inclusion Week.

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