26 September, 2016Children and young people first come into care unprepared, with little notice and sometimes with not much more than the clothes they are wearing.
Two young people decided to help. Ngarrindjeri woman Olivia Brownsey and Wagadagam woman Loyola Wills hit upon the idea of providing overnight bags containing essential items to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and young people coming into emergency care.
They called it Dreamtime Bags.
‘It’s all being done with grants and donations and volunteer labour, a lot from our friends and family members’, explains Olivia,’ and everybody has been incredibly generous.
‘We started out with a $5,000 grant from Oxfam’s ChangeCourse program and then started asking around to find out just what sort of things needed to go into the bags.
‘The ones for toddlers needed to be quite different from those for children and teenagers and the ones for girls and boys had to be different as well.
‘We sent letters requesting help to major retailers and many were very generous.
‘Just as an example, we had gift vouchers, toys from unsold magazines and other offers and a big box of perfectly good products that couldn’t be sold because the packaging was damaged.
‘We’ve now filled up two spare rooms and will probably fill a third before we finish shopping in the next couple of weeks.
‘We will be packing between 100 and 150 bags and tagging them with the age and the gender of the people they are for.’
Olivia and Loyola are partnering with Aboriginal Family Support Services who will arrange for the distribution via social workers as children come into care, starting in August.
You can find out more about Olivia and Loyola’s work on the Dreamtime Bags Facebook page.
Oxfam ChangeCourse is a community development program led by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people. Details are on their website.
This story first appeared in the August 2016 Guardian’s Newsletter.
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Great work Olivia, Loyola, AFSS et al