Home Class Tech Environment matters: It’s time we asked harder questions about the spaces young people need to thriv

Environment matters: It’s time we asked harder questions about the spaces young people need to thriv


Environment matters: It’s time we asked harder questions about the spaces young people need to thriv

by Rumbi Mabambe

In the neighbourhood where I live, the council provides beautiful playgrounds for our children. It cuts the grass and keeps the gardens looking good. It’s a fun, safe community space.

But it’s a completely different situation at Mount Druitt in Western Sydney where I work. I just wouldn’t take my child into the playgrounds. They’re not well maintained and they’re not safe.

That might not be a surprise to many people who understand the differences between different suburbs across Sydney.

However, what few people realise is just how much of an influence neighbourhood dynamics have on the lives of young people. In the research I’ve done for my PhD, I found the state of infrastructure, playgrounds and adult behaviour witnessed by young people directly impacts their sense of belonging, and how safe and connected they feel in local communities.

I work at a foundation called Learning Ground, where our program connects students with peers, mentors, and positive role models. Every day I see young people who are growing up with a sense of hopelessness. For example, one young person I interviewed for my research believed that nothing good comes out of people, including themselves. Think about that!

They had watched relatives who are unemployed, in jail, and often experienced negative inputs from family who don’t expect they will be successful. They lived in the local area, and the environment reinforced this lack of hope and optimism.

It’s a difficult situation for young people like this who also face other pressures common to all young people across Australia – bullying, loneliness, and the negative impacts of social media. In fact, research shows 1 in 5 young people are psychologically distressed.

We’re witnessing the rise of a troubled generation where inequality and lack of opportunity will have lasting consequences. It’s an issue that should attract more attention across all levels of government.

According to renowned psychologist Urie Bronfenbrenner: ‘There is no more critical indicator of the future of a society than the character, competence, and integrity of its youth.’

So, what’s the solution? Obviously, we need healthier, safer spaces. We need better physical environments for our children.

And we need more programs like ours where young people can experience a safe community built on relationships of trust, support and acceptance. My team and I believe in our common humanity. We all have challenges and in the rhythms of our lives there are times when we’re up and times when we’re down. The question is what choices do you make during these times, and how can you learn different ways of responding to stressful situations.

It’s a privilege to work with young people in our program who rediscover the joy and value of learning, kindness and ways of understanding themselves and others.

Empowering young people to make personal choices from a position of strength and understanding is deeply rewarding.

But at the same time, we can’t do everything. As a community we need to think about the whole environment in which we’re raising the next generation and ask ourselves, what else can we do to offer young people the hope and future they deserve?

About Rumbi Mabambe

Rumbi was appointed Executive Officer for Chain Reaction Foundation in 2018. She holds an Honours Degree in Economics, and a Master’s Degree in Marketing. She has worked in the not-for-profit sector in Australasia and internationally. With expertise in not-for-profit organisational management, her particular interest is in adolescent social and emotional wellbeing and the impact of this on adolescent mental health outcomes. She oversees the operational management of Learning Ground, an award winning program in behavioural change whose head office is in Mt Druitt NSW. Rumbi is the final year of her PhD in Adolescent Social Cohesion with the University of Technology Sydney. She is a people person who conducts her present role with considerable empathy, determination and skills, particularly in organisational strategic planning, corporate governance and stakeholder engagement. She was appointed Secretary to the Board of Directors in 2019.

Source link

You may also like