Tyson Birtles, Cultural Advisor, is part of the Aboriginal Services team at Youth Off The Streets who provides Cultural Connections Programs to disadvantaged young people.
The Cultural Connections programs are funded through Future Generation Australia (ASX: FGX) and are designed to teach traditional Aboriginal practices in a modern setting to help young people grow into active contributors to family, community and society.
This year, the program engaged with over 250 disadvantaged youth in South West and Western Sydney, introducing them to Aboriginal Culture via programs and events. They also assisted over 100 Aboriginal young people to connect with their culture and land through the delivery of Aboriginal arts workshops, young men’s group and music workshops.
Tyson believes in teaching at-risk young people cultural healing practices and giving them access to the therapeutic benefits of these practices.
“As a Cultural Advisor at Youth Off The Streets, my driving motivation is to be able to share culture with Aboriginal young people that are at risk of harm,” said Tyson. “That really motivates me as someone who was given a journey through Aboriginal nature law myself, I want to make the experience as authentic as possible for young people. “
Many young people do not understand that engaging in Aboriginal culture can be therapeutic and good for the spirit. Through trauma informed care, the Cultural Connections Program focuses on the therapeutic benefits of connecting with culture and the land.
All of this is integral for young people at risk, helping them to remove themselves from a toxic environment and engage in spiritual healing.
The Aboriginal Services team encourages reconciliation and for young people to bring along friends to the programs and camps to share their culture with them.
“The most challenging part of my role is trying to get the broader Australian community to embrace the Aboriginal culture,” says Tyson. “It’s all about trying to find those connections and similarities between people and different cultures so that they can feel connected and know that deep down we’re all the same.”
We want non- indigenous people to understand that they are invited to partake in our culture. For example, in facilitating smoking ceremonies at events I always explain that it is a ceremony for everyone to enjoy and to have the opportunity to connect to the land. “
Tyson hopes that in doing this they can make a genuine commitment to reconciliation and making non-indigenous people feel that they too can connect to the cultures and practices.
A big part of being able to engage young people in cultural practices is for our Aboriginal Services team to have the resources to allow them to do so. The team need funding for everything from paying to use the land at national parks to paying for transport and buying equipment. All of these resources allow them to help young people engage with their culture through various cultural camps and programs.
“Funding from FGX is integral to support the Cultural Connections program. Without them we wouldn’t be able to fund these resources to make the program happen. Whether it’s having the resources myself as cultural advisor to facilitate these programs or whether its funding to allow external cultural facilitators to come in and share culture with our young people it’s all crucial.”
We would like to thank Future Generation Australia (ASX:FGX) for supporting the Aboriginal Cultural Connections program since 2015.