14. Kosta and Johnny

16 Nov

Johnny and Kosta met in a juvenile detention facility and identified the need to create a program that would discourage young people from committing offences. They understand how making the wrong choices can change your life and are the founders of ‘Word on the Streets’ a program designed to keep young people out of the youth justice system. They recently received a grant from Youth Foundations Victoria West Heidelberg (YFV3081) which will enable them to visit schools in and around their community to spread their message.

Whilst Johnny and Kosta are trying to move on and become positive role models within the community,  moving forward with a criminal record attached to your name makes it difficult to leave the past behind. The aim of the program is to prevent young people from entering the criminal justice system and to deter them from making choices that could lead them to that path. They thought it would be good to share their insights with young people and talk about their experiences. They believe it is important to help young people stay out of trouble and stay connected with schooling.    

They believe that young people need to hear a positive message about school and the importance of education. They feel that it would have been highly beneficial if someone could have pointed them down the right track when they were younger. Kosta asks ‘why do you have to be locked up to get your point across?’ This is essentially the drive behind ‘Word on the Streets’.

It offers young people the chance to engage with people who have experienced the youth justice system first hand and will hopefully deter young people from committing offences. Johnny and Kosta plan to offer advice and guidance to those who might be at risk to prevent them from entering the youth justice system.

 They also understand the implications of hanging around the wrong people. Johnny admits that the people he once associated with were leading him down the wrong path. He wants to explain to young people that hanging around with the wrong crowd will ultimately have consequences. The ‘Word on the Streets’ program hopes to show young people that they have options and should value their future. If they don’t, Johnny says that they can easily ‘go down the wrong path’.

Johnny explains that detention is not a place where you want to end up. He says ‘you don’t want to end up inside, it’s not a place you want to ever see, it’s not a place where you want your family to come and see you’. Johnny’s brother was involved in a car accident and it was three months before they gave him permission to go out and visit him. He says that ‘you don’t get to do things you want to do, your freedom is gone’.

He also talks about how young people quickly fall back into the cycle of reoffending. He recalls how he saw eight people leave the centre and come back within the space of three months. However, time in detention did have some positive aspects on his life. He improved his reading and writing, was taught to respect, and learnt some important life skills. Now with detention behind him he feels ‘older and wiser’. ‘You learn from your mistakes’, he says, but the crucial message for kids who are beginning to do the wrong thing is simple – ‘just don’t do it’.

Kosta explains that he wants young people to ‘do the right thing, stay out of trouble and steer clear of that life’. Life in detention meant that Kosta was unable to see his family as often as he would have liked and opened his eyes to the ‘real world’. He completed a TAFE course whilst in detention and is currently furthering his education at a local TAFE. He says the project is a great way to ‘share a part of your life with someone you don’t know’ and he hopes that the project will teach young people that ‘If you get locked up you’re just wasting your life and the time that you have been given’. He sums up the experience by saying that its ‘better to understand than judge, we all make mistakes some are just bigger than others’.

Words By:David Joiner and Stephanie Neville

Photo by: Sean Porter

© Sean Porter 2011



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