95. Kieran West

17 Oct

Working with vulnerable youth in the Banyule community, Kieran West has cemented positive foundations and the ability for at risk young people to flourish.

Kieran grew up in the Banyule area finding his calling by becoming a secondary school history teacher, where his passion for helping disadvantaged youth and community engagement ignited.

“I was a secondary school teacher; I worked out West in some low-socioeconomic schools. And what I found was: a lot of particularly young men in my class – probably about a third – couldn’t read or write to a level that they could pass anything,” Kieran said.

“[Having] about a third of my class that couldn’t read or write to a high school standard, they failed from day dot.

“So, I found myself providing more and more individual support in the way of trying to catch people up in those really basic educational life skills.

“I guess the rigidity of having to teach by a curriculum led me to explore other avenues of being an educator.”

Before he became an educator, he volunteered at the Royal Children’s Hospital in the burns unit, where he aided Black Saturday Bushfire survivors in telling their story through mixed media.

His career as a teacher led him down a path of personalised and individualised support for young people to give them hope and the best chance at success.

From these past experiences, Kieran found a new calling in life: youth work.

He applied for a youth work course on the last day at the last hour – something that can be considered fate

“It was lucky circumstances,” Kieran Said.

“I had a placement lined up where I worked alongside a wellbeing worker, and that fell through the day before.

“I desperately tried to find a last-minute replacement, and I ended up doing my student placement with Naomi at Banyule Youth Services.”

From then on, Kieran was enthralled in the rewarding work of youth services and began his work in the casual pool, aiding in administrative tasks and progressing to where he is today.

Kieran now works in many fields within Banyule Youth and specialises in working with at risk young men culminating to his pride and joy: The New Hope Program.

The New Hope Program follows two streams falling under the same banner of hip hop and culture, allowing aspiring young and enthusiastic, street artists, rappers, and beat makers, use their creativity in a safe environment, away from illegal and negative avenues.   

For many years, before Kieran was involved, the program has been a safe outlet for young people to express their passions for street art and music, while providing them with life skills, peer interactions and connectivity.   

Kieran now runs the program in conjunction with talented street artists, musicians, and role models: Dean Peters, D’Arcy Savage, and Sebastian Fransz, creating an ecosystem of inclusivity.

“At its heart, [New Hope] is a diversionary program; diverting young people away from graffiti crimes and anti-social behaviour, and more into avenues of using those things towards paid opportunities or opportunities to give back to the community,” Kieran said.

“Our culture at New Hope is something we’re very protective of, it’s about establishing those good routines and that respect from the outset.

“Some of the feedback I’ve received is that they feel that they can be themselves, and that’s the highest compliment I could wish for… you can come here and be yourself without being self-conscious; you feel like you can belong here.

“It’s a tricky one with street art culture; it inevitably has that criminal element, but our responsibility is to teach them there’s another side to it: you can make a living and do things for the community as well.”

Kieran is also responsible for youth skate, scooter and bike events in the Banyule community, and although there are similarities with New Hope, these programs need to be treated differently.

Kieran said that while these young people are not their usual cohort, they have a responsibility to locate, navigate, and present programs that young people want to do.

“Consulting with young people and finding out what fun things they want to do that’s purely recreational, and we target things like skate jams and BMX jumps because they’re not our usual cohort of young people,” Kieran said.

“It’s part of our responsibility to reach out to people who wouldn’t normally come themselves… [however] they are resistant to the therapeutic side of youth work.

“You have to come to it with a bit of flexibility and meet them on their level, so it’s about making things as little like school as possible, while providing them with a safe and structured environment.”

Ultimately, Kieran strives to negate the negative avenues that vulnerable young people may fall into by creating programs that are tailored towards their passions.

He still sees himself as an educator, providing invaluable life skills and independence; removing the need or warranty for negative outlets.

Kieran says he would love for his current generation and emerging New Hope participants to thrive and have the same outcomes as many of their past participants.

“I really want to see these guys take their creative passion and turn them into paid employment opportunities,” Kieran said.

Article by Curtis Baines

Photo by Darcy Scales


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