Youth program in line to win two gongs

MARK SCOTTNorth West Telegraph

YMCA Hedland’s Swim for Life program has been announced as a finalist in two categories in the Community Services Excellence Awards.

The program aims to generate first-time employment for young Aboriginal people as qualified lifeguards at Gratwick Aquatic Centre.

YMCA youth engagement and employment manager Tim Turner said since the program started in 2008 he had seen a change in the culture among some Hedland youth.

“We have young Aboriginal people coming to us and saying ‘I want a job as a lifeguard’, and that shows a real change in youth culture, and it’s what we want,” he said.

“Ultimately we’d like to see this program expanded across regional WA and eventually to a national level.”

Brandi Joseph, 17, said she struggled at school and decided to leave, then found Mr Turner and became involved in the program.

“I did my bronze medallion and started working as a lifeguard, then found out I was pregnant and left to have my baby,” she said.

“When my child was six months old I spoke to Tim and came back to the program, and now I’m a project officer and qualified swim instructor.

“Swim for Life gave me the push I needed to get everything on track.”

Gratwick Centre manager Chris Retallack said the program had been vital at the pool.

“Swim for Life has alleviated our lifeguard shortage; a lot of the lifeguards here come from the program,” he said.

“It’s a model program that should be taken up across the program, it gives these kids a chance in life, which is what they need most.”

The program has been nominated in the regional organisation category as well as the partnerships and strategic alliances category for its relationships with BHP Billiton, the Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations, Hedland Senior High School and Pindan College.

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