60. Richo Euston

12 Dec

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“We grow up to be the people we wish we were around when we were young”, a favourite quote of Richard `Richo’ Euston, a youth worker at Banyule Council.

In his time working with Banyule, 34 year-old Richo has developed some great programmes such as the Rainbow Space Program along with helping out in the young male Somalian community, and even upgrades and maintenance for recreational spots such as skate parks around the area.

After initially wanting to work in Outdoor Education, Richo began his career in youth work in 2003. Richo realised throughout his youth the lack of support that many young people experience in the country town he grew up in. He also saw a heavily dominated “hyper-masculine football culture” that existed in his town, leaving it difficult for anybody who identified as gay, lesbian, trans or bi to openly discuss their sexuality or trust anybody to confide in. When I asked him what the Rainbow Space program is all about, he described it as “a safe place”, a program dedicated to people aged 14-25 where they can discuss their feelings and any difficulties they experience, social or mental.

Richo told me about the gap of funding in this area, and considers “the role of the ally” such as himself, very important to help fight homophobia in the community. He states that his main aim is to make sure that people who identify themselves as homosexual can see their sexuality as a “non-issue” and live happy equal lives.

Richo and his co-workers operate from their office at the Banyule Council, and also head out to schools across the area to facilitate informative and fun drama classes tackling the issues of homophobia within the school-yard, as well as pushing the appropriate use of social media. Their main way of helping individuals is by linking them in with referrals which are appropriate for the issue and making sure young people don’t “fall through the gaps”.

Two main themes Richo focuses on are “mindfulness” and “gratitude” with young people to improve their level of happiness. He stated that we all have a responsibility for young people and the way that they act, and that one of the most important things amongst young people is the resilience towards social media.

“A lot of parents will ensure their kids are taken off social media if they’re experiencing bullying or negative things. When in fact, that just makes the issue worse.”

Richo has a tactical approach to young people and social media sites such as Facebook. He believes that rather than telling young people not to use it, we should be advising them how to use it safely and appropriately due to its many benefits. The Rainbow Space program benefits from Facebook as it is used as a platform for young people to get in touch with himself and other co-workers in a way that they feel comfortable.

When I asked the charismatic Richo for any career highlights he told me there has never been “one or two big things because there’s always different teams to work with and I am constantly gaining new skills. Those are the highlights. A couple hours of work for me can change a young person’s life”.

He told me that none of these programs are exclusive. It’s not only Somali young men that can participate in the training programs and it’s not only lesbian, gay, bi or trans people who can reach out to Rainbow Space on Facebook.

One could say Richo’s success comes from the fact that he in so inclusive and can make anybody feel comfortable. One of the things he noted that I will remember throughout is “Developing resilience can guard against issues”. Sitting there in awe of all of his work and dedication, he reminded me “We don’t fix young people, we support young people”.

One of his most valuable strategies is to present youth with options and ask questions to be able to come to their own solution, whether this be through personal counselling sessions or a whole group drama class at a school.

Richo regards the holistic approach they use by collaborating across departments to be the grounds of their success within youth work. I asked him what he thinks makes a good youth worker, he replied by telling me “A lot of people go into youth or social work because they have their own issues that they believe they can use to help other people. This doesn’t work, you have to resolve your own issues to be able to help others.” After a long day of work, Richo enjoys meditating and cooking to take his mind of things. He encourages young people to find a hobby that helps them take their minds off things as a type of remedy for the issues they may have.

Richo and his colleagues work with all kinds of adolescent and youth. Mental and social issues can effect anybody regardless of their socio-economic status, where they live or their sexuality. Richo works to reduce the negative stigmas around stereotypes relevant to young people, and helps various groups find their voice within the community.

Not only is Richo Euston a great bloke, but also a role model for young people, and people of all ages. He shows that issues don’t have to be your own to help resolve them, and that the most important thing we can do is educate and support young people to ensure they have the opportunities to grow up and achieve the most they can in life regardless of their financial situation, sexuality or gender.

Words: Jaslyn McCarthy

Photo: Sean Porter

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