It was wonderful to join Matt Noffs, Mark Ferry and the broader Noffs team today to celebrate one year of the Penrith Street University
, by finally having their official launch which was delayed this time last year due to COVID-19.
When we learned about the Street University concept, we knew that we had to bring this innovative and unique service to Penrith. Our region had been lacking addiction support services and particularly services that engaged with young people in a non-clinical setting.
Penrith Street Uni is one of seven ‘universities’ across the country that provides a free community space and uses a diverse range of artistic, cultural and educational programs (called “hooks”) to engage difficult to reach young people and bring them into the service. This non-traditional health setting provides counselling and treatment support to young people that delivers a significant decrease in drug use and crime while increasing mental wellbeing.
Although the Penrith Street Uni began operating in February 2020, it had to shut its doors when the pandemic hit. During the short time it had been open, the service had made contact with a significant number of local young people that they needed to continue to support. The Noffs Foundation reacted quickly, rethinking its service model and introduced ‘Street University LIVE’ an online version of the service. This online platform with live chat, video and audio streaming was only accessible to staff and clients and became a life-line for young clients as they maintained connections with other young people, hung out, accessed information and continued to participate in treatment.
With the easing of COVID restrictions, the service recommenced face-to-face services in a staged way, and by the end of January this year, the Street Uni was fully operational and has welcomed more than 100 new clients.
The Street Uni is also home to Deadly Dreaming program which is delivered in local schools and at Cobham Youth Justice Centre. Deadly Dreaming offers structured, weekly, programs for Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander young people who have, or are at risk of developing, drug-related problems, poor school attendance, behavioural issues or are in contact with the juvenile justice system.
Deadly Dreaming includes skills development through connection to culture with activities such as didgeridoo lessons, dance, arts and crafts, spiritual healing, identity exploration and cultural empowerment through guided support-based yarning circles. Cultural development is further fostered through exploration activities and programs with a focus on traditional values such as transition from youth to adulthood, respect for self and others, men’s and women’s business and spiritual connection to the land and peers.
I would like to commend the Noffs Foundation for their adaptability and for continuing to deliver these amazing services despite the challenges on 2020. We can’t wait to see what you achieve in 2021.
Olga Christine with Matt Noffs, CEO Noffs Foundation Dani Muscat, Olga Christine and Melanie Wright