The youth-empowerment program is expanding to cover the Toowoomba region, after kicking off with a celebratory launch event on Saturday 5 November at Wilsonton State High School.
The Big Buddy program was developed to create intergenerational change by empowering Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander youth to achieve their full potential. The program, currently being delivered by Goondir Health Services in Oakey, Dalby, Chinchilla and St George, is expanding to cover even more of the Darling Downs region.
The program is designed around the four pillars of Social Inclusion, Mentorship, Promoting Life skills and Education (SIMPLE), offering young people access to experiences such as local vocational training and
education opportunities; event management; mentorship from ex-NRL legend Ash Taylor; and homework and health literacy support.
The Toowoomba-based iteration of the program was launched by Darling Downs Health in partnership with a range of local community organisations.
Darling Downs Health Director Indigenous Health, Rica Lacey believes that Big Buddy can have a great impact on young people.
“The focus on education and employment is the undercurrent of Big Buddy, but kids are set up to thrive because they are empowered to try new things and figure out what they are good at,” Ms Lacey said.
The program addresses the social determinants of health and the behavioural risk factors affecting Indigenous young people, that together constitute a large proportion of the health gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people.
“Influencing the social, cultural and economic determinants of health is one of our health equity strategy priorities that we’re working towards as part of Big Buddy.”
“Things like educational opportunities, employment and social inclusion, have a huge influence on the health inequities affecting our mob,” Ms Lacey said.
The launch event included festivities and a social football match pitting program participants against local police. There were food and drinks available from the Big Buddy mobile food van, which was run by Big Buddy program participants.
Ms Lacey said that while there are plenty of opportunities for young people to gain work experience through the program, there’s also a big emphasis on letting kids gain interpersonal skills through Big Buddy’s social activities.
“The kids get to engage in activities that stretch and empower them, like kayaking, event management or adventure camping,” Ms Lacey said.
Youth engaged in Big Buddy are rewarded through an incentives program which encourages attendance, participation and positive behaviour.
The Big Buddy program is for youth aged 12-17 years. To get involved or find out more contact the Darling Downs Health Indigenous Health team.