Study gets Aboriginal young people talking

July 23, 2013

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Murdoch University student Jenna Woods.

Murdoch University student Jenna Woods has been invited to present at the National Youth Affairs Conference in Adelaide for her work on a project exploring Indigenous young people’s street presence in and around the Perth to Armadale rail line.

The rail line has been identified as a problem area in the past, with WA Transport Minister Troy Buswell threatening to cut back services in 2011 due to violence.

The project aimed in part to find root causes as to why so many young people were on the trains and in rail hubs.

“Jude Bridgland Sorenson, who oversaw the project, was one of my tutors at Murdoch. She approached me about helping because she knew I’d be interested and realised the best way to get young Aboriginal people to talk was to have Aboriginal people asking the questions,” Ms Woods said.

“Also, I grew up in the area, in Gosnells, and knew a lot of their families, and had hung out myself when I was younger, so she knew I could relate to them.”

Ms Woods and a number of other members of the project’s Youth Advisor Council spoke to youth on the streets and trains as well as at local schools and community events.

In total, she estimates they made contact with about 400 young people over the course of six months.

“We talked to kids who hung out and those who didn’t, so we got both sides of the story. Overwhelmingly we found that young people were on the streets and trains because they didn’t feel safe at home,” Ms Woods said.

Ms Woods said these young people tended to be around 13 or 14 years of age and that she would regularly encounter up to 100 nightly. While she saw fighting, she never felt personally threatened.

“I wasn’t an outsider, so I came in at their level. There really weren’t any issues. But we spent a lot of time getting the wording of the study right before we went out – thinking about who to ask and how to ask the questions – which is what I’m going to talk about at the conference in Adelaide,” she said.

Ms Wood said the project had a comprehensive risk management plan and was supported by Transit Police, the Noongar Patrol and the Aboriginal Railway Police.

Ms Woods is currently in her second year of a double-major in Community Development and Politics and International Studies at Murdoch and works part-time as an Australian Indigenous Mentoring Experience (AIME) presenter.

She is a graduate of the K-Track program, proudly sponsored by Energy Resourcing, a bridging course that gives Indigenous students a pathway into university.

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