12 April 2019

GET empowers teenage girls to tackle life’s challenges with confidence

| Rachel Ziv
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L-R: Rhys Bailey-Brown, General Manager Community Services of Anglicare, Cindylee Young, Youth Engagement Officer, ACT Minister Yvette Berry and CEO of Woden Community Service Jenny Kitchin, with the graduates of the first GET program.

Self-esteem, resilience, wellbeing, relationships and safety are among the biggest challenges faced by teenage girls.

In an effort to provide practical advice and support, and help at-risk young women confront these challenges with confidence, Woden Community Service (WCS) developed an early intervention program: Girls Empowered Together (GET).

The 10-week program is designed to build positive self-esteem and self-image, foster resilience, improve emotional and physical wellbeing, maintain positive relationships, and help young women be safe and independent.

A collection of Year 9 girls from Canberra’s south participated in the inaugural GET program this term, culminating in a graduation and celebratory lunch at the Woden Youth Centre last week.

To congratulate their commitment and achievement, the girls’ families and teachers, WCS and Anglicare staff, ACT Minister Yvette Berry – who presented them with graduation certificates, and AFP youth liaisons all attended.

Cindylee Young, Youth Engagement Officer in the Youth Engagement Team (run by WCS and Anglicare), developed the GET program as a way to address common issues that she knew teenage girls were experiencing.

Rhys Bailey-Brown, General Manager Community Services of Anglicare, Jenny Kitchin, CEO of Woden Community Service, Cindylee Young, Youth Engagement Officer, and ACT Minister Yvette Berry at the graduation ceremony

“I already run groups with girls in schools, so the session topics came naturally because I knew this was what they needed. These are issues that girls want to know about or need help with, so the program was developed to support them in making informed decisions in the future.”

After receiving an ACT Women’s Participation Grant to run GET for two terms, it was rolled out to seven girls in Year 9. A group of Year 8 girls is set to participate next term.

“We’re excited to run it again next term with Year 8 students. We’re working with ages that we’ve identified as best for early intervention, because we want to help educate them before they come across these life situations.

“It took a lot of work to develop the program, but it’s been absolutely fantastic. The girls made such a big commitment – to the program and to themselves – and it was great to celebrate their achievement.”

Jenny Kitchin, CEO of WCS, adds “These are young girls who are often struggling to connect positively with teachers and other students, and may have been on a path to suspension which would only exacerbate the problem. This program has nipped a lot of that in the bud. It has given these young women lots of confidence, helped them relate positively to others, and taught them how to reduce their anxiety and stress. Their schools have already been reporting incredible changes in behaviour.

“It was really nice to watch them get up on a stage with confidence and talk to us about how important the program has been, and to watch them mingling afterwards and see how well they were connecting with everyone.

“The program was led by an excellent coordinator, and the mentoring relationship Cindy developed with the girls was key. In all, it was a great success for Woden and for the young women.”

Jasmine and Hayley graduated from GET last week.

Of participating in the GET program, 15-year-old Hayley said “At the start it was really confronting and kind of awkward because I didn’t really know anyone. But then, after the first two weeks, it just kind of felt like a safe space. I would definitely recommend the program to others, it was amazing.”

Hayley’s advice to other teens now is to “Be yourself and don’t hide yourself. And if you need help, talk to people because there are lots of people who are willing to help you and listen.”

To learn more about WCS programs, visit Woden Community Service.

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