Woden Youth Centre has been providing a non-judgemental safe space for young people for 30 years, and as it celebrates this great milestone, former staff, volunteers and visitors have been acknowledging its extraordinary contribution to rebuilding and improving lives, and the wider Canberra community.
After working and volunteering at the Centre in a variety of roles over the last 25 years, Sindy Pearson says she often runs into old attendees who are now married or have kids, and they tell her how the Centre put them on the right path as teenagers.
“I’ve got so many amazing memories and stories of my time there,” says Sindy. “The benefit of a drop-in centre was it was just a casual way young people could connect with workers on their own terms. They felt comfortable after a trauma to connect with youth workers and build up trust again. It’s that small difference of someone being there to just acknowledge them, ask them about their day, take an interest in them, take an interest in their life.”
Former attendee Jason was struggling with drugs and alcohol, in trouble with the police and in and out of bouts of homelessness. He says the centre was vital in helping him receive the help he needed to get back on the right path.
“I was looking for somewhere to hang out. I was going through a rough patch with my parents and with school and I was also struggling with drugs and alcohol and, to be honest, I was looking for somewhere to hang out,” Jason says.
“At the start, it was really good. The workers were very non-judgemental, and were very keen to help in any way … They didn’t care what we were going through, they were just there. Having someone who was there and willing to listen and care was just such a huge help for me.”
Jason started going to the Centre after school in late 1989, initially just as a place to relax with mates after school, but quickly found solace and confidants for his troubles in the youth workers. In fact, the Centre inspired Jason so much that he has now decided to become a youth worker himself, to help people going through the same tough situations that he found himself in as a teenager.
“I’m a bit older and wiser now and I want to get back into the community and help others going through the same crap of life that I did, to help them get through it,” he says.
“You come around full circle and realise the people that helped you, you can do something to help others like they helped me.”
The Woden Youth Centre was opened on 27 May 1989 by Peter Garrett and runs a range of programs and activities, including counselling programs and support services. Food is donated by the Southern Cross Club and the Centre hosts Friday evening band and music nights, as well as music development programs for Canberra youth.
At the start, Sindy was just looking to give back to the community while her four-year-old daughter was in school, but after discovering all the fantastic programs and support networks the Centre offered, decided to apply for a full-time role in 1997.
“It really stands for the commitment of Woden Community Service to provide a youth service to young people in the Woden region because at that time, 30 years ago, there wasn’t a lot of social activity in the area, and many young people came from across the ACT to use that Centre,” she says.
“It’s around having a safe space that young people can come to and connect with peers, their community and workers in regards to issues in their life that they can reach out and receive support for.
“The fact that after 30 years it’s still operating and thriving is a credit to the organisation.”
Both Jason and Sindy will be able to reconnect with each other and their peers when the Centre hosts its 30th Anniversary celebration on Friday, 29 November. But everyone’s invited!
The event will include recollections and speeches, pictures and displays from Centre archives and, of course, a line-up of local bands and musicians who have a connection with the Woden Youth Centre.
Date: Friday, 29 November 2019
Time: 4:00 pm – 6:00 pm, followed by band night from 6:00 pm
Location: Woden Youth Centre, 29 Callam Street, Woden.