“Through this initiative, we were able to provide a safe platform for young people to express their ideas and have a voice in how they can have a more engaging impact within their community.”
- Youth Off The Streets Program Manager, Employment Services, Sabrina Misela
Recognising that its 42 Living Centres are in a unique position to help at-risk youth, Scentre Group has been working to develop a National Youth Resilience Plan.
The working plan is being led by Scentre Group’s National Community Experience Manager, Pam Wilson, in collaboration with representatives from the National Risk and Security team. It seeks to turn anti-social youth behaviour into an opportunity to help young people build resilience.
“Westfield Living Centres are popular with young people, some of whom use them as a meeting place simply because they don’t have another safe space to get together. Sometimes when groups of young people congregate, some retailers and customers can feel intimidated and it can be challenging for our employees in-centre to manage,” explains Pam.
“Our security teams regularly communicate with young people in our centres, but we want to take these relationships a step further and work with the young people and local community organisations to identify opportunities to create greater rapport with young people, help connect them with relevant service providers and hold meaningful events and activities in our centres that are relevant to them.”
One pillar of Scentre Group’s Youth Resilience Plan focuses on Empowering Teams and a component of this is a national project to refresh the Youth Respect Cards. These cards, which outline centre rules and the expectations of young people while in Westfield centres, were developed about eight years ago and feedback showed they were no longer fit for purpose. Instead of the top-down approach in designing new ones, Pam says they decided to start at the grassroots level.
“We wanted to ask a cohort of our target audience, that is the young people themselves, how they wanted Scentre Group employees to engage with them, what they thought of the Youth Respect Cards, and how we could make the cards more meaningful to them,” Pam continues.
So, in November 2019, her team joined with Youth Off The Streets, who work with disadvantaged young people, to enlist eight participants for a three-hour co-creation workshop in Mt Druitt, in Sydney’s west.
Youth Off The Streets Program Manager, Employment Services, Sabrina Misela, said the collaboration with Scentre Group and co-design initiative was a fantastic opportunity to reach and engage with young people in Mt Druitt in a respectful and inclusive way.
“We are proud to be able to bring local youth and Scentre Group employees together to build strategies in strengthening relationships and providing more support within this community,” she said.
“Through this initiative, we were able to provide a safe platform for young people to express their ideas and have a voice in how they can have a more engaging impact within their community,” she said.
Participants said that the types of information that would be useful on the new card included how to find ‘What’s On’ information about the centre, basic centre rules, and pointers towards useful community services, such as the toll-free Kids Helpline.
“We dug really deep, canvassing their ideas about a wide range of things,” Pam says.
“It was a real privilege to connect with these extraordinary young people, hear their insights, experience their openness and enjoy their energy and humour.”
“Youth Off The Streets has since hosted a survey with local youth about their perceptions of their local Westfield,” continues Pam. “We are really looking forward to receiving the results in early 2020.”
The whole process has made it really clear to the Youth Resilience Plan team that centres have a huge opportunity to engage proactively and positively with young people. Pam says she is full of optimism for the future.
“If we can support young people in our trade areas to thrive, we will be serving the whole community in which they live.”
Other pilot projects underway as part of Scentre Group’s Youth Resilience Plan include Mental Health First Aid training for Scentre Group employees on how to guide an empathic conversation; and also the ABCN Mentorship and Leadership Program, which is proving a fantastic opportunity to connect one-to-one with Year 10 and Year 11 girls in Mt Druitt and Liverpool.