Supporting Aboriginal young people in justice and care – Rhett’s story

May 2024

Written by Kelly Royds

A few years ago, I met Rhett when he was collaborating with the Advocate for Children and Young People on a report about experiences of Aboriginal children and young people in NSW. By then, Rhett already had impressive track record as an advocate and role-mode for Aboriginal young people in youth justice and beyond. His impact was recognised when he was named the NSW/ACT Young Achiever of the Year for his work in 2015. 

During our recent conversation, what struck me the most was Rhett’s deep insight into his work. He is someone who effortlessly weaves the threads between his life and his work, each enriching the other.  

“There’s just something that intrinsically in me that always drives me back to this space”, Rhett reflected. “Traditionally, I know my ancestors had to look after their people to look after their Country, to ensure the next generation of people were fit and healthy and able to survive. I think me working in this field is somewhat of a contemporary aspect of that tradition.” 

Through his experiences in various sectors, including youth justice, education, and health, Rhett has a deep understanding of the intersection between culture, identity, and healing. “Probably in some sense, a bit of a wounded healer,” he reflects, recalling his childhood experiences and the motivation they instilled in him. 

This perspective shapes Rhett’s approach when working with young people. “When I work with the kids, I ask them about their parents’ lives, you know, and their grandparents’, and learn about that, because that’s part of their story, too.”  By creating space to share family and cultural connections, Rhett holds the importance of identity and culture in supporting young people to navigate their own journeys. 

Listen to Rhett’s story and learn more about his understanding and approach to cultural safety for young people in youth justice and residential care contexts. 

 

You may be interested in: Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Cultural safety

What is cultural safety?
What is cultural safety?
Cultural Safety is used by organisations alongside Cultural Competency and Cultural Responsiveness to demonstrate their commitment to work and provide services which are welcoming and respectful of another person’s culture....
Read more
What are the needs of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and young people in care? Research brief
What are the needs of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and young people in care? Research brief
Indigenous children and young people face unique challenges in the child welfare system. The dimensions of this problem are complex and multifaceted. Providing culturally safe and traumainformed therapeutic care to...
Read more
Karen's story: Culture
Karen's story: Culture
Recently I had the privilege of being invited to the 50th Birthday party for twins, Karen and Sharon Lovett who initially came into care at 4 months.  I was fortunate...
Read more
More than just a kid in care - Identity and Culture
More than just a kid in care - Identity and Culture
This NAIDOC week, I have spent some time listening to the new, 4-part podcast series called “More Than Just a Kid in Care”. Written, produced and edited by young people...
Read more
Cultural Governance Panel
Cultural Governance Panel
Our Cultural Governance Panel is chaired by Emeritus Professor Judy Atkinson, a Jiman/Bundjalung Aboriginal woman, and comprises Aboriginal leaders from across NSW and other states in Australia including Cultural Advisor,...
Read more
Curiosity doesn't always kill the cat: Using a curiosity-oriented approach to promote connection to culture and community for young people in out-of-home care
Curiosity doesn't always kill the cat: Using a curiosity-oriented approach to promote connection to culture and community for young people in out-of-home care
Lena Ford is an Accredited Mental Health Social Worker who has worked in the field of children, youth, and families for more than 20 years, in both government and community...
Read more
Trauma-sensitive family time is about connection and repair
Trauma-sensitive family time is about connection and repair
Relationships with family come with good times and challenges for everyone, but for children and young people in care, this birthright of family connection can often be deprioritised for the...
Read more
Connecting to culture is a journey, not a box to tick
Connecting to culture is a journey, not a box to tick
Last week, we were privileged to have Dr Jacynta Krakouer lead a training session on building cultural connections for First Nations children and young people in out-of-home care to a...
Read more