19 January 2016
2015 was a busy year for our dedicated Youth Engagement Officers. As well as running a bustling Youth Centre, managing the award-winning Computer Clubhouse and working one-on-one with young people, our quietly achieving staff established a new group.
A-Z is a group for gender and sexuality diverse young people, providing a safe and non-judgemental space to meet up each week.
I spoke to Ciara Duggan, the Senior Youth Engagement Officer who founded A-Z about what was involved.
What inspired you to start this group?
The group came about after a discussion at an outreach session with young people from Lake Tuggeranong College. The young people explained that it was inconvenient to travel to either Woden or Belconnen to attend the Gender and Sexuality Group. They asked why there was no group in Tuggeranong, and if it was possible to start a similar group in the region.
Realising that there was a gap in services available to young people, establishing a Sexuality and Gender Diverse Social group became a priority. I had experience working in the Belconnen Community Service Bit Bent group and utilised some of the knowledge gained there to create a basic structure for our group.
Our group commenced at the Tuggeranong Hyperdome in the middle of Term 4, 2015.
What was involved in starting A-Z?
Following discussions with both staff and young people, we decided that it was imperative to facilitate the group from a location which would be convenient for young people in the Tuggeranong region. The Tuggeranong Hyperdome had offered a vacant shop-front to engage with young people and it quickly became apparent that it was the perfect space for the group to be held.
Before starting the group we contacted the AIDS Action Council, undertook professional development in running a group for young people that identified as sexuality and gender diverse, and visited other engagement officers facilitating similar groups in Canberra to gain insights on what works best.
What are the principles that guide the group?
The group is committed to creating a safe and inclusive space for young people to socialise, gain friendships and have a voice in the LGBTIQA community.
We ensure that young people can access information on events, opportunities and social gatherings in the LGBTIQA community, and openly discuss local services with focused health professionals.
What is the structure of each week?
Each week the participants have the opportunity to talk to trained and qualified youth workers, socialise with other young people, and discuss their needs and interests, which informs future guest speakers. For example, hearing about the Spring Out festival, other services and support networks run through the LGBTIQA community, and other youth services in the Tuggeranong region.
The group has been visited by EnCampMent (a youth-led Canberra initiative which hosts weekend activities), with two of the participants already engaging with the program.
What’s next for A-Z?
2016 holds some exciting opportunities for the A-Z group. Myself and the other Youth Engagement Officers will conduct outreach and engagement activities into all Tuggeranong high schools and Colleges to ensure that the group is accessible to students.
We’ll also focus on networking within the community sector to ensure that workers know about the group and can discuss with participants. This will also allow us to build a rapport between youth workers, and importantly create strong connections to encourage guest speakers at the group.
A-Z is held every Tuesday during Term 1 from 5.30pm to 7.00pm. All young people (aged 12 to 25) from the Tuggeranong region are welcome to attend.