1 June 2023

Since joining Life Without Barrier's intensive program, Toby has made significant strides.

Toby* is an Aboriginal and Torres Straits Islander boy who started Year 8 this year. His people are from Palm Island (Bwgcolman is its Aboriginal name), Yarrabah – Gunggandji, and Torres Strait Islands. He lives with his grandmother and his brother Pete*. Toby is doing well at school and excels at sport. Last year, he was made house head and won a series of medals in athletics, including two blue ribbons for running.

"I like rugby and track races because I am good at it - usually I come 1st or 3rd. Being house head is great because I like bossing people around," Toby says, laughing.

“Also, I just like being a leader.”

Toby's achievements are a credit to him and the choices he has made, especially because there was a time when Toby lacked positive male role models in his circle. In fact, it was quite the opposite. The adults he knew and liked were involved in risky activities, and he had started to engage in these too.

Toby's Life Without Barriers Care team knew that the strong and talented young man had the potential to go far in life. He simply needed more guidance and support to thrive.

"Toby is an amazing young person," said his Child and Family Practitioner, Daisy.

“He is proud of his Aboriginal and Islander culture and identity and is very respectful of that of others.

"He is passionate about leadership as well as service – he’s always happy to help.

"Toby is very smart and will strive for excellence in his studies and extra-curricular activities. He also has an amazing sense of humour. He is always willing to learn from others and share his knowledge."

His care team advocated for additional support for him, and since August 2022, Toby joined Life Without Barriers intensive program, working with Youth Worker Lea and Cultural Support Planner Alan.

Image: Toby feeds a kangaroo.

At first, Toby was very reluctant to engage in the program, preferring to stay at home and play video games. His Care team gently persuaded him to participate; they encouraged him to choose just one day in the week to go out.

Toby picked Wednesday, and his brother Pete joined him. Together they explored a range of activities with his youth workers. He soon enjoyed going out after school with his brother for nature walks, swimming, and occasionally fishing.

"I like going out with my youth worker, Lea and Alan. I like it because I get to spend time with my brother, and we go to Ninja Park, the dam, or the Strand. It's usually fun to get away from everyone at home for a bit," said Toby.

"Nan is not able to take us around much because she does not drive. I enjoy going to different places as I used to stay at home a lot and not do fun things. Lea, my youth worker is very good and talks to us and listens to what we have to say and what activity we want to do."

During Daisy's visits, Toby would also sit with her to curate his youth work support and advise who he wants to work with and why. He shared what activities interest him within the community.

Early on, Toby made it clear he did not want to work with psychologists. His youth workers showed him emotion regulation strategies while they were out and about in the community, which was better suited to Toby's learning style.

Since joining Life Without Barrier's intensive program, Toby has made significant strides.

"Toby has been able to build healthy attachments and can now easily identify people he feels safe around," Daisy said.

Through the intensive program, Toby was encouraged to think more expansively about himself, his life and what he is capable of.

"It made me think I can one day be an army man and be able to travel and learn about all the amazing gadgets and drive the big army tracks," Toby said.

Daisy and Alan told him about the Proud Warrior Program. Run by the Australian Defence Force, the program aims to positively influence at-risk Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander youth by providing a safe and enjoyable environment for them to be individually mentored, coached and supported.

Toby now attends the Proud Warrior Program fortnightly, with the support of his youth worker and cultural planner, and is having a great time.

"I wanted to do the Proud Warrior Program because I want to be in the army one day, and at the Proud Warrior program, I get to talk to the army guys. It's good; I have fun while I'm there. I always look forward to it because we do different stuff each time," said Toby.

When asked what he hopes to achieve, Toby said, "I want to learn more about the army stuff and be with my friends."

As a result of joining the Proud Warrior Program, Toby identified several male figures who are role models to him.

"His grandmother used to be concerned that he did not have any appropriate male role models at home whom he can look to for support to navigate as he grows into a young man," said Daisy.

Everyone is proud of Toby's successes.

"Toby has a bright future ahead as he has identified his interests and is already working towards this," Daisy said.

"I think that through his engagement with the Proud Warrior Program and his youth workers, he has been able to ascertain some goals, such as one day being in the army, proactively engaging in sports and learning more about his culture."

"He is a motivated young person who will be an amazing leader.”

A person's story is precious. We take storytelling seriously. Sometimes people are able to tell their own story, and we love that. We always make sure they give us their ok, and we will always honour the trust placed in us to bring their story forward.

* Names have been changed to protect the privacy of the young people


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