Pivotal role for indigenous role models

Lynelle Elliot

Proud Wiradjuri woman Lynelle Elliott is using the transformative power of the arts to help young Indigenous men at Kariong’s Frank Baxter Youth Justice Centre.

The TAFE NSW Newcastle graduate works with the youth at the Centre, aged between 16 and 21, to develop their creativity and cultural understanding in order to assist them boost employment prospects or transition into further study.

The Youth Justice Centre accommodates young offenders in custody and offers a range of health, educational and spiritual services to the young people, as well as individual case management and interventions to address offending behaviour, specialised counselling, and training in job and living skills.

Research has shown, the availability of Indigenous role models for young Aboriginal people has been recognised as pivotal to their behaviour.

Lynelle graduated from a Diploma in Visual Arts in 2019 and said it was her TAFE NSW teacher who inspired her to use art to educate and advocate for community growth.

“My TAFE NSW teacher was a wonderful Aboriginal man of knowledge and culture who strongly believed that our continued personal growth and development was essential, and that each of us had a role to play in the education and growth of the next generation.

“I have learnt during my time at both TAFE NSW and working at Frank Baxter that the key in the process of rehabilitation is being able to see yourself as something other than a criminal.

“The arts do not depend on academic education or other prerequisites, anyone can participate,” Lynelle said.

Research conducted by the Australian Education Corrections Association has found that, in correctional facilities, decisions are made for individuals, and there is a pressure to conform so that real life decision-making responsibility is suspended.

The arts counter this by encouraging people to make decisions, have enthusiasm and take risks and responsibility.

This prepares offenders for reintegration into society.

Accomplishing a variety of visual arts skills with the young men including weaving, painting and sculpting, Lynelle said that she has observed a real change in youth over time in their willingness to open up, participate and try new things.

“The arts develop the ability to see the world from different perspectives, encourage taking positive risks and allow discovery of hidden skills and talents,” she said.

Press release, May 18

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