Slam dunk for underprivileged kids

In the fading afternoon sun, a young man stands on a basketball court with four young children excitedly running around him.

Minutes pass and the four children multiply until more than 30 are bouncing around his ankles with endless energy, seemingly immune to the day’s freezing conditions.

The man unzips the bag at his feet, pulls out a basketball and says: “Okay guys it’s time to start! Split up into two groups and form a line at half court.”

The children sprint off down the court and the young man draws an old silver whistle to his mouth.

His name is Steve Bacash, the head coach at Helping Hoops Richmond.

He gives his whistle a soft toot capturing the children’s attention and yells “okay guys let’s start off with a little warm up, give me two suicides!”

Helping Hoops is a charity dedicated to running free basketball programs for underprivileged children.

What started in 2009 as a single program in Footscray now delivers more than 450 free basketball sessions to more than 1000 children of all abilities, ages 7 to 21.

Participants at Richmond Helping Hoops. Photo: Joseph Regan

Steve first became interested in helping underprivileged youths while volunteering with The Big Issue.

“I was helping out with a street soccer program, which I had heard about through my days playing street basketball in high school, but felt like I couldn’t really help the kids out because I never played soccer.”

“So, when I heard about the opportunity to actually coach basketball and teach kids a sport that I knew the fundamentals in, I jumped at the chance.”

Steve started volunteering in 2013 and was promoted to head coach in 2015.

“I first started volunteering with Helping Hoops six years ago and then two years ago an opportunity came up to coach but our executive director Adam McKay was a bit reluctant to give me the role.”

“He said that he thought I would always be a bit more of a sidekick and that burned in my soul a little bit. However, I didn’t show it and I knew I had more to give.”

“They ended up giving the role to another African American dude with a lot of experience, but about six months later that didn’t work out so they gave me the job.”

“Two years on and I’m now doing four programs in Richmond, Croxton, Prahran and North Melbourne teaching the fundamentals of basketball to more than 150 kids a week.”

Steve is an easy going character and this relaxed, happy-go-lucky approach clearly comes through in the clinics with the focus on the kids having a good time rather than driving the technical development of basketball skills.

“At Helping Hoops we’re not here to turn these kids into champion basketballers, we’re here to create a feeling of community and instil values like teamwork, respect and interpersonal skills.”

“I layer the program because if it’s all basketball most of the kids won’t stay interested.”

“I try to create an environment where everyone feels comfortable to speak and be heard because a lot of these kids come from challenging families so I think it’s important to give them a space where they feel they have a voice.”

The energy and excitement on court is palpable, it’s clear the kids respond well to Steve’s approach as he orchestrates the mayhem with carefully timed bursts of his whistle.

Long-time Richmond Helping Hoops volunteer Meredith Oldhan says that Steve is an excellent mentor for the children.

“He’s a bit of a king of the kids when they are all out on court.”

“Tonight is a perfect example, we’re getting buffeted by freezing gusts, pelted with ice cold rain and it’s the first day back for lots of schools and there’s still at least 35 kids down here to shoot some hoops!”

“Steve thrives in this organised chaos and the smiles he puts on the kids’ faces at the end of each session always make it completely worthwhile,” says Meredith.

Helping Hoops executive director Adam McKay said that the work Steve does running four training sessions each week is invaluable.

“Each week Steve runs four different programs Wednesday to Saturday spread out across Richmond, North Melbourne, Prahran and Croxton, and at every one of the programs he knows every kids name and takes a genuine interest in who they are as people.”

“It’s only through the generosity of our dedicated coaches like Steve that we are able to reach as many people as we do.”

For Steve, it doesn’t feel like work anymore.

“Initially I found it difficult because you have to give so much of yourself and it can be difficult working out what kind of person these kids need you to be.”

“But after a while, you reach this level where you understand what you’re here to do and that’s when you really start to pick up on how rewarding [it is] working with these kids and watching them grow and develop into young adults.”

“At the end of the day these are great kids who just like anyone else need to be guided, nurtured and supported, and it’s an amazing feeling to be able to provide that to some of these kids.”

Helping Hoops is a not for profit orginisation dedicated to helping underprivileged children achieve their full potential through competitive sport.

More information on Helping Hoops can be found here.

Written by Joseph Regan

Yarra, Moreland and Darebin unite to help give young entrepreneurs a go

Do you ever feel attacked by the media for being a part of a generation of self-centred narcissists who spend too much money on smashed avo and not enough on a housing deposit? Kate Rizzo, youth development officer for the Yarra council and leader of the Young Entrepreneurs in the North program, thinks this assessment of young people couldn’t be further from the truth.

Rizzo, 27, has a degree in Psychology and Social work, runs her own social enterprise and has a passion for working with what she says is one of the most misrepresented demographics: youth.

Kate Rizzo (centre) with last years Young Entrepreneurs. Photo: Juan Castro.

Since being developed by a colleague of Rizzo’s in conjunction with the Yarra council in 2014, Entrepreneurs in the North has since expanded to the cities of Moreland and Darebin under Rizzo’s leadership, beginning in 2015.

Rizzo said the aim of the program is to “support young people in business develop an idea,” by running weekly workshops with guest speakers, and providing mentors for participants. With 18 young people from the City of Yarra currently receiving mentorship as part of the program, Rizzo said that about 80 per cent of participants are of African heritage, and are inspired to develop many of their business ideas specifically for the African community.

Rizzo gave an example of two young Somalian women called Fatima and Huda who are creating a “safe space” for Somalian women to discuss traditionally taboo subjects like sex and relationships. The young women told Rizzo that many African women are discouraged from talking about sex and relationships among family and peers, making this project especially beneficial for these women.

Young entrepreneur Nyonno Bel-Air is a success story from last year’s intake. Bel-Air, pictured above, discovered a gap in the cosmetics market for people with tan to dark skin tones, so she used the program to help create the highly successful brand, Kleur Cosmetics, which specialises in formulating shades for skin with high levels of melanin. The brand already has a following of almost one and a half thousand on Instagram, and is definitely a space to watch.

Kleur Cosmetics latest foundation. Photo: Instagram.

Rizzo said that Young Entrepreneurs in the North was developed after seeing a lack of employment opportunities for youth. It has since received funding from the Yarra and Moreland council’s youth services and economic development units.

The workshops are run weekly on a Tuesday night by the Roshambo Group, who, according to their website are “founders, investors and advisors, working with … individuals, teams, departments, and businesses to efficiently and effectively deliver the critical 21st-century adaptability [to business].”

Rizzo said that the young people in the program are working to “modern models of business” rather than the old school, and are using state-of-the-art technology and strategies to make sure their businesses get off the ground in the right direction.

So, if you’re a young person who resides in the City of Yarra, Darebin or Moreland and have a great business idea, email or phone 9426 1455 to sign up for this awesome program to kick-start your career and prove to the media and your parents that young people aren’t just self-absorbed avo-eating dreamers with no realistic goals.

Watch last year’s video by Moreland City Council to find out more:

Written by Caitlin Matticoli

Multicultural football club bringing kids together

Melbourne City Football Club is kicking goals in 2017, with its I Speak Football program up and running for another year.

Located in the City of Yarra, young football fans aged 14 – 17 from across the state are invited to participate in the 25-week program to sharpen up their skills and put their talent on display.

The Centre of Multicultural Youth founded the program in 2015, and after two years have handed it over to Melbourne City FC to run as part of its Citizen’s Giving Program.

Photo: Melbourne City FC

Head of Community at Melbourne City FC, Sue Crow, believes the program is in its best shape yet.

“The Citizen’s Giving Program is featured across the City franchises in Manchester, New York and Melbourne,” she said.

“Fans vote for the programs they want to be a part of and they receive funding to run.”

The program emphasises social inclusion and bringing kids together to enjoy the global language of football. It also aims to help them build a stronger connection within the community.

Mentoring participants through I Speak Football are third-year members of the Yarra Pathways Program.

Launched in 2015,  the Yarra Pathways Program connects young talented football players aged 18 – 25 with clubs such as I Speak Football. The program sees the players developing leadership skills and confidence, and provides alternative pathways into football careers, such as coaching.

With the aim of developing leaders for the future, the student mentors are given free reign over the activities and structure of I Speak Football.

“These young leaders have developed the [I Speak Football] program, and they’re delivering what they’ve written … it’s practically their program and we’re [Melbourne City FC] there to monitor it,” Ms Crow said.

Photo: Melbourne City FC

While the program has only just begun for 2017, Melbourne City FC has high hopes for its growth throughout the year.

As word spreads through the community, I Speak Football leaders are looking forward to welcoming new participants.

“I expect as the word gets around, more kids will come,” Ms Crow said.

Head to the website here for more information about I Speak Football or They Yarra Pathways Program.

Written by Marnie Cohen

Youthful perspectives: Capture Yarra Photography Competition

It’s remarkable just how much our perspective changes each year. Sometimes for the better and sometimes not, but it is forever changing, moving and growing.

The Yarra community we know and love is full of diversity; in race & religion, education, and age. How we see Yarra is unique to each and every one of us.

In conjunction with Yarra Youth Services, the Yarra Libraries held a ‘Capture Yarra Photo Competition’ for youth residing in the Yarra and library members.

Participants aged between 12 and 18 were encouraged to capture Yarra as they saw it.

Emma White, the youth services librarian at Yarra Libraries, told YR that the aim was to ‘provide an insight into the world of our young Yarra residents. Participants were given the brief to capture what they thought was the true essence of Yarra. This collection of images is a poignant and honest exploration of their experiences.’

The winners, chosen by a panel of judges, were Ella Cox, age 13, with her photograph titled ‘The Bus Stop Lounge Room’, Lillian Gutteridge, age 15, with her photograph ‘Evening Light’, and Poppy Ward, age 12, with her photograph ‘Tram Gateway’.

Ella Cox The Bus Stop Lounge Room
Photographer Ella Cox, The Bus Stop Lounge Room


Lillian Gutteridge Evening Light
Photographer Lillian Gutteridge ‘Evening Light’
Photographer Poppy Ward, ‘Tram Gateway’

‘I feel very excited [to be nominated]!’ Poppy ward told YR via email.

Twelve-year-old Poppy’s interest in the photography competition sparked after she participated in a photography workshop held in the Carlton Library, but she has always had a keen interest in the craft.

Understanding the perspective of youth while facilitating avenues of creative expression is just one aspect of community engagement we see here in the Yarra.

Most importantly it gives youth a chance to tell their stories, their way, and promote the confidence, independence and creativity of the future of Australia.

Art & Sex-Ed: Using comics for CALD youth sexual education

Sexual education can be a tumultuous process for teens and young adults, even more so for those from our culturally and linguistically diverse communities.

Imagine discussing what is already a taboo topic in many cultures, compounded with language barriers and contrasting ideologies.

» Tan Œ Safe sexS.H.A.R.E is a new guided learning tool created by strategic design consultancy, Paper Giant, and commissioned by the Centre for Culture, Ethnicity & Health, that uses cleverly designed comics as discussion points for community health workers and youth.

Chris Marmo, co-founder of Paper Giant, spoke to YR about the process of creating what is fundamentally a sex-ed guide for CALD youth.

“It can be awkward talking about sexual health, with culturally and linguistically diverse young people it’s super hard.”

The team began its research by gathering stories from social workers relating to sexual experiences among youth in the community, with both language barriers and age as a major component in the analysis.

“These obstacles compounded, using comics as a discussion point for youth sexual heath education was a natural decision.” Says Chris.

Through a network of youth advocates, supervised workshops were conducted to gain a deeper understanding of the first-hand issues CALD youth face. Using the comics depicting the scenarios outlined by social workers they began to identify other factors surrounding youth relationships and sexual interactions.

“We had some really brilliant young people, across a range of religions and cultural backgrounds… [and] we learnt a lot from what they were noticing in the stories, but we learnt even more from what they didn’t notice.”

Having a healthy relationship and positive sexual interactions is largely learned through social groups, home life and society attitudes at large. Often CALD youth are not permitted to talk about sex at home leaving them to generate their own ideas through social streams, entertainment and news.

“A lot of cultural attitudes became apparent when people would comment on things like teen pregnancy and how it is the responsibility of the girl to manage that.”


» Solomon and Sally Œ Comic

The comics depict scenarios such as unplanned pregnancy and sexual assault as well as highlighting pressure tactics used to dissuade condom use or initiate sexual intercourse.

Some scenarios, such as ‘Solomon and Sally: Sexual Assault’ and ‘Solomon and Sally: Happy Ending’ show the outcome of two possible scenarios, one in which sex is forced and the other where it is consensual.













With recourses in the health and community sector already stretched thin, having effective teaching material is paramount. All too often recourses are poured into streams that are inaccessible to target groups or have little preemptive focus.

“The biggest effect you can have from a project is making really good quality stuff that is available to everybody who wants it…We found that young people don’t search for this stuff unless they have a medical issue… so the idea of self-guided education and general niceties around how to have a healthy relationship or what positive and negative sex is, people don’t research that on their own. They only research that stuff if they have a specific issue they want to find an answer to, some kind of medical issue or they are already in trouble in some way.”

Since the projects launch in April, Marmo says the guides have been quite popular among the social services sector and have already been used in youth detention and other learning facilites around Melbourne.

The comics are available for download along with discussion points and other relevant learning material on the S.H.A.R.E website.


The Telling Tree: A reading by LGBTIAQ+ Youth

The ‘safe schools’ debate has raged through the media in the last few weeks.

At times like these, it’s easy to be blind sided by political op ed’s and vocal public figures. We tend to forget to listen to the voices of those affected by the very thing we are debating.

Last week, popular LGBTIAQ+ book store, Hares and Hyennas, held a reading for The Telling Tree, a storybook project created by members of the LGBTIAQ+ youth community. The Telling Tree, a collaboration between Yarra Youth Services, Drummond Street Relationship Services,  Minus18 and The Ownership Project, features Kai Hart, a teen who identifies as agender, aromantic and asexual.

[The Telling Tree] is about getting out what we wanted to say and having an opportunity to make sure we are acknowledged,” Says Kai.

“We participated in workshops where we discussed things like, how did you discover your identity, what sort of explorations did you do, what sort of reactions have you experienced. It’s about Drawing from our own experience from growing up queer.”

Exposing cisgender and heterosexual teenagers to the LGBTIAQ+ community is simply a way to promote inclusion, shatter stereo types and open dialogues in the community.

“When people know who we are… it means [a person] can say ‘look these are real people in my community who are dealing with these real things, I should probably respect them more.'”

The Telling Tree is a compilation of 10 short pieces by various LGBTIAQ+ youth. From descriptions of terminolgy to recounts of real events, every word is written with knowledge beyond its years.

Living in an environment that challenges your right to existence is both physically and mentally challenging. It affects the individuals, families and friends, and can often cause conflict in relationship dynamics.

“My parents are super supportive, but they have trouble with [aspects of] it. They do have a little bit more trouble with my gender identity… I think it’s a thing that a lot of parents do, which is ‘Oh you’re my baby girl’, and ‘I want to call you your [real] name’ and ‘it’s so hard for me to remember.’ I’m still your child, i’m just not your daughter.” they say.

Acknowledgement ignites the process of acceptance. For Kai, changing her name was a step toward feeling more at ease in their body.

“At one point, my mum was like, ‘I named you, you’re under my roof.’ But as recently as last week, she said, ‘you know its your name and I acknowledge that that is you, but I do so much and i’m so busy and it’s hard for me to remember a whole new name to call you’, so she is softening.”

“I do struggle with it. A few days ago i sent off my official name change form, so i had to subtly ask my parents where [my birth certificate] was. I have this fear of what they will do, when they see my new birth certificate with my [new] name on it. It’s something that can make me really anxious and contributes to these feeling of worthlessness and hopelessness that I feel.”

By accepting one’s right to choose their name, pronouns, gender identity and sexual preference you’re leading by example. It’s the small changes that make a big collective difference to kids growing up Queer.



The Telling Tree: Kai

I am aromantic, asexual and agender. This means i am affectionately called ‘triple A’. It’s common in the depths of Tumblr. ‘A’ is one of the few prefixes that is used for orientation (which include romantic, sexual, platonic, sensual, alterous and aesthetic) <em>and</em> gender identities, and ‘triple pan’ and ‘triple bi’ aren’t puns (unless you make them so, send m an ask on Tumblr with your punz pls).

Considering how flighty and artist-y I am, it might be weird to also find out I am obsessed with the technical, which is why I will expand on my identity for you. Saying I’m aro’, ace and agender is not enough to capture all that I am and that is obvious, of course. You could know that i’m also a singer, a writer and a waitrex, but what I mean is I collect as many words that describe  disparate parts of who I am and to be honest this sometimes makes it burdensome to be so queer.

I am also quoiromantic, and lithromantic, and alloplatonic, allosensual, bialterous, trans and nonbinary, and use they pronouns.

The thing about these words is that they mean  different things to different people. What a community does is roughly homogenise these meanings and eventually spawn new words and new groups because people find other people in much more meaningful ways.

Take for example bisexualtity. Within the queer (LGBTIAQ+) community, there are lots of meanings people have for bisexuality. Some people have stopped using it altogether in favour if terms like pansexuality, polysexuality and plain old queer. Multiple gender attracted (MGA) is also used as an umbrella term.

However! here are also words that people have created that can be super contentious. I am personally against using words like sapiosexual because it can mask or outright expose an ableist attitude and can group together a lot of experiences that can resemble bisexuality, pansexuality and asexual spectrum identities, which have many sub-identities or related identities that are just as useful and a lot less problematic.

This does not mean that I want to infringe on the rights of people to self-identify. In fact, as someone who is as far outside any binary as I am, I know how liberating it can feel to find that there are still words and meanings and community out in this lovely void.

By Kai Hart