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It’s all about youth care in Karratha

A young client of the Karratha Youth Accommodation Service feeds a horse during a visit to the local stables.

Unique challenges and opportunities supporting young people are all part of a day’s work for The Salvation Army in the remote mining community of Karratha, Western Australia.

“Every day is different in our job – sometimes it doesn’t always go to plan, but we learn to work and adapt to all different situations,” said Kerry Hall, Service Manager at Karratha Youth Accommodation Service.

Positive outcomes, however, have seen the service nominated for a Pilbara Community Services Excellence Award this year.

RJ From Yaandina, Angela Day (previous AOD worker,) Kevin Michel (Member for Pilbara) and Kerry Hall (Salvos Service Manager).

The youth service operates in the city of Karratha, a mining community about 1500 kilometres north of Perth in the Pilbara region. It has six beds and two independent living units for young people at risk of homelessness. It also offers a drug and alcohol outreach program.

“We have a job to do, but we have to be human because we really care about young people in our community,” Kerry said. “We created a home-like setting that is nurturing and caring, which is something some of the young people may never have experienced before.”

The Salvos provide more than just a bed for young people but try to respond to all their challenges. Facilitating health checks, Centrelink payments, getting identity documents (sometimes for the first time), reconnecting with school, filling out housing applications, living skills, local excursions, and “a shoulder to cry on” are some of the multi-faceted supports offered.

Challenges of providing a service in a remote mining community include retaining staff. Staff need partners with well-paying employment because of the high cost of rent and utilities. For example, air-conditioning units run most of the year because of the hot climate. Also, mining towns have transient populations, so sometimes staff need to leave when their partner is relocated.

Kerry Hall cooking in the kitchen with a former client at the youth centre.

Healthcare is also an issue with any person needing major treatment needing to fly to Perth.

However, the mining community also offer opportunities for young people through traineeships and apprenticeships. The Salvos have partnerships with Fortescue Metals Group and Woodside Energy, which provide training and employment opportunities supported by on-site mentors, healthy living skills, cooking and fitness programs.

“Some of our clients have gone all the way through the 12-week traineeships into apprenticeships and can now live independently,” Kerry said. “The companies in our partnerships look after them so well, but they still pop in to see us from time to time asking for help or giving us an update on their lives.”

Kerry said they also have four clients working in local shops, one studying hairdressing at TAFE, another in a leadership program, and another working for a local Aboriginal corporation.

“Some come to us with literally nothing, so we try to rebuild their lives from the ground up,” Kerry said. “If we can’t help them immediately due to the accommodation being at capacity, we point them in the right direction and offer them as much assistance as we can.”


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