An illustration of a boy teenage boy with his hands behind his head looking down with creative blue texture background

Let’s Talk About the Summer Holiday – a poem about detention

Apr 2023

Written by Terry Cyra Fernandes

“Let’s talk about the summer holiday, even though I’m in detention in was still fun aye.

Because it was so hot, there was no time to use the indoor gym for a shot and I can’t lie I did enjoy tie die.

We got Adam Drake helping us train, he does that many push ups he must be insane.

We had a colour run, that was pretty fun then lucky we got the pool so we can get cool.

The staff make fun and jokes til it comes to basketball and Mut chokes.

Then we had Muxy helping us rap about our life cause he wants us to do right.

But most important of all is Heidi for coming and organising the programs so we were not bored, so I think we need a round of applause.

So that’s all about my summer holiday.”
– By Terry*

This poem was written by Terry, a young person who has spent most of his life since the age of twelve in and out of detention facilities and sees it as his second home.

I first met Terry when I began working at the youth detention facility last year. He is a young person who is intelligent, articulate and with a good sense of humour. He sees many of the staff at the facility as role models and aspires to become a youth worker himself, to help other young people in similar situations.

Terry wrote this poem during the recent January summer holidays, which vividly captures his joy in the activities and relationships provided at the youth detention facility. The poem shows Terry’s playfulness with words, and warm connections with the rap artist Muxy (who ‘wants us to do right’) and others that make his time fun and engaging. Importantly, the poem reflects Terry’s belief that the relationships and opportunities at the facility can be a resource for him going forward.

An illustration of a boy teenage boy with his hands behind his head looking down with creative blue texture background

What struck me about Terry’s poem, and why I wanted to share it beyond the walls of the facility, was that it offers an alternative view to the stories so often heard in the media about young people in detention. This is not a poem about a young person locked in their cell for 23 hours a day. It is a poem about a young person engaging in creative and fun experiences and relationships through which to connect and rehabilitate.

Offering young people opportunities to express themselves through creative writing forms, like poetry, rap, and storytelling, can promote self-reflection and foster motivation. It is also part of the meaning making process- helping them making sense of their current situation.

There are many great programs like this across Australia, like YWRITE in the Northern Territory and Story Factory in New South Wales. At the same time, what “Terry’s” experience and poem also tells us is that all young people—especially those in detention with experiences of childhood trauma and violence—have the right to have fun and “just be a kid”.

* Names have been changed to protect the identity of the child. Thank you for your understanding and support.

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