I haven’t yet met anyone who would choose to re-live their teens. This formative time is a universally awkward and painful experience for a whole range of reasons. For youth workers it’s an experience they draw on daily to help young people build resilience through their hardships. It’s a job that requires a huge amount of compassion, empathy and patience.
Working with the Sydney Youth Services team in Belmore, I’ve come to understand that there is a unique set of challenges for young people caught between cultures. For many first and second generation Australians their families have a very different set of expectation to their peers. It can be a big source of conflict for young people who are still negotiating their identity.
Leonard Perelini is a proud Australian-Samoan man who has provided countless hours of support and guidance to young people in South-West Sydney through Barnardos Streetwork program. His passion for his work is evident in the relationships he has with his clients. It is a passion borne of a family tragedy Leonard experienced as a young person.
Earlier in 2017 I had the privilege of spending time with Mele Sulaki-Latu. As a proud Tongan-Australian Mele understand the cultural challenges that other young people from migrant backgrounds face as they find their place in the world. She is a strong and confident role model for the young women who’s lives she has touched.
This level of care and investment in young people’s lives is vastly under-rated in our society and economy. Our community is better off for the work that people like Mele and Leonard do.