$50k fellowship to help find solutions to ‘failed system’
HELPING at-risk youth has been a long-term passion for Mark Robertson.
The Byron-based founder of One Vision Productions will have the chance to research solutions for complex youth-related issues with the help of a $50,000 Westpac Social Change Fellowship.
He's one of ten "social innovators" who have received the scholarship.
Westpac Scholars Trust CEO Susan Bannigan said the fellowship was now in its fifth year.
"It allows them to invest time and energy in their own development, to explore opportunities that were otherwise out of reach and form valuable connections that will last a lifetime," Ms Bannigan said.
Mr Robertson plans to use this opportunity to improve Australia's approach to young people who are at risk of, or experiencing, homelessness, incarceration and education difficulties.
He said while some countries were "really pioneering" different approaches to these issues, Australia had been lagging while young people fall through the cracks of a "failed system".
"In NSW we have 232 youth in detention and 40,000 homeless kids in Australia," he said.
"There's a housing shortage in northern NSW; we've got nowhere for our kids to live."
He's also troubled by Australia's staggering rate of Aboriginal incarceration.
According to a 2018 report from the Australian Law Reform Commission, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander adults make up about 27 per cent of Australia's prison population, despite their communities being about two per cent of the general population.
The same groups make up 53 per cent of Australia's 949 young people in custody, according to a report on youth detention, released by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare in February.
All youth in detention in the Northern Territory are indigenous.
Mr Robertson said he personally experienced an upbringing that was "disjointed", seeing first-hand the compounding challenges that arise from not having a roof over your head.
Having worked with at-risk youth since he was 20 years old, he went on to found One Vision Productions in 2014.
His latest project - a concept for the proposed Village Off the Streets - is a plan for a village for at-risk youth that features wraparound services, like mentorship and intervention programs.
He said it's all about helping young people to overcome "a failed system" and get onto the right trajectory.
He said his research would consider "how we as a nation can work better in a collaborative approach to (improve) these youths' lives.
"It's been a really big job trying to get an alternative paradigm," he said.
He said the scholarship would help to make that possible and would allow him to draw upon overseas models.
"It makes sense to see how those models can be effective here," he said.