YEP Crew Blog Post – Julian Ming: Our Vulnerabilities Allow Us to Connect to Each Other’s Stories

As Claire and I pulled up to the Serpentine Retreat Centre, three young Kangaroos hopped across pathway ahead of us. As we waited for everyone else to arrive after their hour long drive we drank copious amounts of coffee to warm ourselves up. This was to be a Drug & Alcohol free event – Caffeine excepted!

In the first icebreaker (of many this weekend), Nia started us off by asking us which superpower we would choose to have. The catch being we had to select another YEP crew’s superpower that they answered in the selection interviews for the Project. Among the typical flight, teleportation and time travel; we got a glimpse into the imagination of our peers, with ‘bubbles’ and ‘transparency’ being two options. More interestingly, we were able to discuss the reasons we choose our superpowers, offering surprising insight into each other.

With the first session bringing bags of goodies, Red Cross’s Save a Mate was off to a great start. The information they provided us was incredibly detailed and informed. I felt like a true chemist after perfecting the pronunciation of two dozen prescription names of various drugs. The session broke down drugs into types of effects, patterns of use, methods of use as well as offering many harm minimisation strategies for us to incorporate into our future workshops.

Next up, we had our very own Darci Miller present the Youth Connectors workshop on behalf of Act Belong Commit. The workshop left us with a series of tools to apply with our friends and our own mental health. The collaborative nature of the workshop left us all feeling energised for the next mental health workshop from Headspace which built on the practical tools offered by Act Belong Commit by underpinning it with theory and statistics as well as giving us a directory of services we can utilise in the future.

After making it though an action packed day we had the fire roaring and dinner sneakily prepared by Nia who had scurried off and begun cooking before we could offer to help. After eating far too much for dinner, we slept off our food comas ready for the next morning.

Day Two began with Slut Drops and Sassy Walks that none of us were prepared to do so early in the morning. Our Hip hop session taught us one thing – we would need a lot of training if we ever wanted to make it as the first Sexual Health & BBV Dance Troupe!

SHQ & Hepatitis WA led a sequence of workshops that expanded our knowledge of SHBBV and the promise of more info to come in the Nuts & Bolts session left us eager to learn even more. The curiosity and enthusiasm of the YEP crew was obvious with the number of questions we all asked. It felt like we were stuck in a tutorial full of mature age students! So many questions!!!

Our final workshop for the day focused on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander awareness. Jade Dolman reiterated many of the issues some of the Crew had heard at the Fairground conference. She also highlighted the diversity of the laws and customs among Indigenous communities. The difficulty I found in this workshop is the natural inclination to ask for clarification of “what are your laws” balanced with the inadvertent disrespect we may invoke by being too direct. In the end, often what a community is willing to share with you depends not only on your own sincerity and openness – but also on the time you must invest in getting to know them. We wrapped up by painting our stories using Noongar symbols.

Early the next morning we were in increasingly high amounts of pain. A combination of ambitious Hip Hop dance moves and several hours of sitting had created knots in our muscles that no amount of Yoga could have solved. Naturally, we went for a hike to Serpentine falls. We managed to pull ourselves to the top of a nearby peak – where we could even see Perth City! A refreshing dip in the falls actually managed to make some of the crew feel better, ice baths apparently work?

The final three workshops were a whirlwind of emotion and as we became even more familiar with each other, our vulnerabilities allowed us to connect to each other’s stories an empathise in a way that would leave many of us returning to our memories of the retreat to strengthen our resolve to empathise and better understand the people around us. Golda’s Cultural and Linguistically Diverse (CaLD) Cultural Awareness workshop was simply a (slightly) more formalised version of the training she had been providing throughout the whole retreat, simply by talking to us about her story.

With two very talented Foundation for Young Australians (FYA) coming from Melbourne to speak with us, we were psyched to learn how we could make our project more successful by incorporating their teachings.

With the darkness encroaching we were in somewhat in a hurry to leave Serpentine, but we were all sure the thank Nia for providing us with this incredible training weekend. We left knowing more about each other and with strong bonds between us. With such a perfect start to the YEP Project, I am certain we’ll be out there doing amazing work very soon!




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Vanessa Vlajkovic

Hi! My name is Nessa and I’m 20 years old. I’m studying Journalism at Edith Cowan University, with a Public Relations minor. I am an avid reader, writer, traveller and cheerleader. I’m also a passionate advocate for the deafblind community, and for other types of disability. I’ve been on the committee of the Youth Disability Advocacy Network (YDAN) at YACWA for a few months, and through them have developed a desire to become a YEP volunteer, as I want to expand my horizons.

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