MATTHEW Bill may have started out training to be a plumber but he soon discovered his true calling working with disengaged indigenous youth within the community.
Born in Midland, the 22 year-old indigenous youth outreach worker lived all over Western Australia before he returned to the area as a teenager to attend and graduate from Governor Stirling High School.
I love the work that I’m doing and having the opportunity to make a bit of a difference within my community,” he said.
“It’s very rewarding when you can help kids from this area get a decent opportunity.”
Mr Bill is a deserving winner of both the 2017 WA Young Person of the Year and a Community Leadership award. The WA Youth awards are a partnership between the Department of Communities and Youth Affairs Council of Western Australia (YACWA), and supported by Lotterywest. Mr Bill said he basically fell into this field of work three years ago when he became disenchanted with the plumbing apprenticeship he was undertaking.
“I was having a few issues at work and didn’t really want to continue with the apprenticeship and an opportunity came along to help with some kids in the community and I jumped at the chance,” Mr Bill said.
“It’s very rewarding to be able to help mentor these kids and I wouldn’t do it if I didn’t enjoy it.”
His very busy daily schedule is indicative of his dedication to his work, his day usually starts with he and his grandfather driving around in a van picking up kids who need a lift to Midvale Primary.
The busy start continues when they drop the van off and then walk around Midvale to gather more kids locally and then walk them to school where they participate in a breakfast club as part of the school program.
He then sits in class during the day with at risk children or youth, some of who may have just come back from suspension and endeavours to keep them focused.
If a student fails to respond he may take them outside to play basketball, have a kick of the footy or even to just sit and talk as he tries to act as a big brother in order to get them to re-engage positively.
His work spans across four primary schools and one high school in the area helping to re-energise students who may be truant from class, suspended from school or are at risk of disengaging from the education system.
In addition to his paid duties he spends much of his personal time mentoring young people and also works with families in the community to encourage and assist them to become actively involved in their children’s lives.
A number of after school activities that promote community well-being and fitness are conducted by Mr Bill and he also runs a men’s community group that used to be restricted to the Noongar community but is now open to men throughout the area.
This year he developed a ‘Yarning Circle’ at Swan View Primary School, which provides an opportunity for younger students to interact with older boys from the nearby high school, to enable an easier transition to high school.
The concept stemmed from an idea by the school’s principal’s and a firepit has been created in a relaxed setting filled with native plants and metal casts of native animals where the various groups can gather and associate.
By Andrew Carter