A Blacktown youth group is so successful in using songs and dances to combat antisocial behaviour, it recently won a $270,000 grant from the federal government to extend its program.
Com4unity reduces criminal activities at Westpoint shopping centre and Blacktown railway station by running singing and dancing rehearsals every week, followed by end of term concerts.
Com4unity is a team effort by Blacktown Police, Rotary, Blacktown Council, Westpoint Shopping Centre and Marist Youth Care.
Cate Sydes, chief executive of Marist Youth Care, said the group had tapped into the core of at-risk youth.
‘‘Now we’ve been able to put them on stage, the community can see they aren’t gangs or violent children,” she said.
‘‘The long-term aim of Comm4unity is to engage young people in diversionary activities and then provide them with pathways to education, training and employment.’’
Com4unity co-ordinator Jojo Tau and her husband, Joe, are responsible for the SWITCH music and dance program.
She said Com4unity stands for ‘‘connecting our minds for unity’’ and is a youth development program operating in the Blacktown CBD.
Mrs Tau said more than 400 young people had ‘‘graduated’’ from the program since it began in 2009.
She said the program is also linked to TAFE Retail Certificate lll and work experience placements with Westpoint retailers.
‘‘We interviewed about 1000 young people hanging out in Westpoint in 2011 to find out their troubles,’’ she said.
‘‘They identified a lack of youth recreation and youth employment as their priorities.’’
She said a follow-up survey was planned for the December 2013 /January 2014 school holiday.
She said the SWITCH program at Blacktown PCYC attracted about 50 young people a week.