Saturday, May 23, 2015


Jaru Pirrjirdi (Strong Voices)

The Jaru Pirrjirdi Program is a youth development and leadership program, as well as an aftercare program for ‘at risk’ youth. It works hand in hand with the Warra-Warra Kanyi Counselling and Mentoring Service to develop strong, empowered, skilled and dedicated young leaders for the community of Yuendumu. The Jaru Pirrjirdi Program creates meaningful and positive futures for young adults aged 16-25, as distinct from the ‘diversionary’ aims of the Youth Program.

The most powerful element of the youth community development undertaken by the Mt Theo Program is the Jaru Pirrjirdi Project. The Jaru project serves as a significant mechanism for the empowerment of young adults aged 16-25 within Yuendumu community and aims to develop them as young community leaders. The program has proved a significant success in offering meaningful activities and futures for young adults as well as providing numerous community services. Jaru Pirrjirdi generally pass through a number of informal stages as they develop their confidence, experience and capacity. This process also variously allows the individual to move away from issues such as substance abuse (where relevant), keep their culture strong and to develop specific skills in potential career pathways.

The Jaru Pirrjirdi Project involves a wide range of activities including:

  • Serving as youth workers for Yuendumu Youth Program
  • Education (Jaru Night Club)
  • Culture
  • Project work eg: film making
  • Mentoring
  • Future Pathways

Jaru Pirrjirdi workers begin working within the youth program and attending Jaru Night Club and over several years gradually pass through all the elements of the project. Subsequent participation in cultural bush trips or constant daily project work such as film making, painting projects, health workshops etc will further develop the capacity of Jaru Pirrjirdi members. Senior Jaru Pirrjirdi members participate in these activities as well as adopting a mentoring role or move on to employment within other community organizations.

This process aims to strengthen the confidence of young people to help become the future leaders of Yuendumu. The Jaru Pirrjirdi Project allows young adults to control and direct the type of youth activities that exist within Yuendumu, to reengage with their education, to continue to develop and maintain their cultural knowledge, to work on projects with community benefits and to identify young people in Yuendumu who are in need of support. Ultimately this process has seen many young people emerge as strong and proud Warlpiri people working hard to make Yuendumu a great place to live.

The success of the Jaru Pirrjirdi Project has been especially evident as the Jaru Pirrjirdi workers have emerged as significant community leaders whose strength and leadership the community has been keen to employ. The importance of this process is that it validates their own leadership and personal capacity for them as individuals and the community at large. In particular many senior Jaru Pirrjirdi workers have now emerged as mentors for the youth of Yuendumu and/or have gained employment at other community organizations.

The clear structure and process of the Jaru Pirrjirdi project enables young adults to work with the Jaru Pirrjirdi project for several years in developing their own capacity and realising their strength. The wide range of activities available for them to engage in provides them not only with meaning and challenges, but enables them to identify areas of particular interest to them as potential career or life pathways. This process also enables the ‘growing up’ of new Jaru Pirrjirdi members. In turn senior Jaru Pirrjirdi members can increasingly exercise strategic control over Jaru Pirrjirdi activities or indeed the future of their community. Ultimately this process should, and has, manifested a meaningful identify and future for the Jaru Pirrjirdi members and their community.

The Jaru Pirrjidi (Strong Voices) Project grew out of the youth program and Mt Theo outstation structure of the Mt Theo Program. The Jaru Pirrjirdi program was designed in 2003 by Mt Theo program staff (most notably the initial Jaru co-ordinator Karissa Preuss) as a response to the clear and pressing need to go beyond the successes of the Mt Theo petrol sniffing program to address issues underlying substance misuse. Thomas Jangala Rice and his wife have been instrumental in the development and success of the Program, particularly the cultural side of Jaru Pirrjirdi.

The Jaru Pirrjirdi project was developed to create more meaningful and long term solutions to problematic youth issues through the creation of a youth leadership group that could respond to these issues. The Jaru Pirrjirdi project was founded to listen to the strong voices of young people in Yuendumu and to assist them to envisage and build more positive futures for themselves and their community.