The morning of the newly formed YEP Crew’s Retreat began with a win and a loss for me. The win was that I picked up fellow YEP Crewer Julian early enough that we were the first ones at the retreat for a bright and early 8AM start, and the loss was that I managed to forget my pillow. It’s quite a first meeting to introduce yourself to someone and then follow said introduction with ‘Hey, can I borrow a pillow?’, but Julian kindly obliged me, and the weekend was all uphill from there.
Our time at the retreat was packed full of fantastic stuff. There were eight information-based workshops, as well as hip-hop and yoga classes, and a trip to Serpentine Falls. The first day started off with the Red Cross’ super practical and informative Save a Mate workshop, which covers drug and alcohol awareness. Our second workshop was a terrific presentation from the YEP crew’s Darci on her work with Act-Belong-Commit, which taught us how to be ‘Youth Connectors’, or people who reach out to their peers and help them get involved in mentally healthy activities. The day finished on a high note with a great presentation from Headspace. I’ve referred people to Headspace before but I didn’t understand the full scope of the services they provide – not only free counseling at their drop in centres, but also a youth friendly GP, a sexual health clinic, phone and online counseling and info sessions for schools. It was fantastic to fully understand the great work they do in improving youth mental health.
Our second day began with the hip hop workshop, which was very much out of my comfort zone, but it was a fantastic workout and a lot of fun. This was followed by a super engaging presentation from Hepatitis WA and Sexual Health Quarters (SHQ) which gave us an introduction to sexual health and blood borne viruses. This is information that will be vital to our roles in the YEP Crew, and I really enjoyed broadening my knowledge of the topic. Post-lunch saw us learning Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander (ATSI) Cultural Awareness with Jade Dolman, which involved a presentation on Aboriginal history and culture and a chance to do a painting using Aboriginal style and symbols. The day ended with a yoga class, where we were able to stretch out our sore muscles from the morning.
The final day of the retreat meant two workshops from the Foundation for Young Australians (FYA), one on digital marketing and outreach, and another on workshop facilitation itself. It was so fascinating to be guided through various typical workshop activities as participants, and then have the techniques and purpose of the activities explained to us from the perspective of the facilitator. We also got to experience YEP Crew member Golda’s Cultural & Linguistically Diverse (CaLD) Cultural Awareness training, which discussed the importance of understanding how a person’s culture affects their values and behaviour, and also how cultural awareness is a reflexive process that arises between workers and clients, where workers should be aware of their own cultural influences and willing to learn from their clients. I considered myself well-educated about how to not be racist in terms of what behaviours and attitudes aren’t okay, but the workshop allowed me to realise that a knowledge of anti-racist activism and beliefs doesn’t compare to genuine cultural awareness. I was humbled to be made aware of the deficits in my knowledge, and now feel more equipped to be culturally competent in my role as a peer educator.
Overall, the retreat was such a fantastic experience. I brought movies and books to fill my free time but they stayed in my bag the whole retreat, as socialising, games and getting to know each other filled up the hours. A notable game of Cards Against Humanity, a bracing swim in the Serpentine Falls and countless awesome conversations really reinforced how cool everyone was and how well we got along with each other. I’ve come away from the retreat with a heap of new knowledge, and feeling like I’ve made twelve new friends. Here’s to a fantastic year ahead!