CHIFLEY Police District has introduced a new program that aims to keep kids out of trouble by helping them pursue their interests and build relationships in the community.
The Police Youth Mentoring Program has been made possible thanks to the work of youth liaison officer Senior Constable Matt Holden and a one-off $10,000 grant from the NSW Government.
Sen Const Holden, who was a school teacher prior to joining the police force, said the program will work with at risk students aged between 12 and 18 years old who don’t thrive in a school environment.
“There are some kids who can’t string an essay together – I was probably one of them – but if you throw them in a practical situation and tell them to pull an engine apart and put it back together, they can do it with their eyes closed,” he said.
“So I wanted a program that would engage the kids in an area of interest that they were interested in.”
The program will start off small with around 10 students from the Bathurst area.
Students who are between 12 and 14 years of age will be paired with personal mentors based on their hobbies and interests, while the older students will be paired with either personal or business mentors.
Sen Const Holden said he would interview the students to find out “what makes them tick and what they are interest in” and then seek out the industry they are interested in to organise a work experience opportunity for them.
It is hoped that active participation in the program will reduce truancy rates, prevent or reduce criminal behaviour and build a positive relationship between youth and police in the district.
“Quite often there’s not a positive relationship between some parts of the community and police, so it’s important from an early age for a lot of these kids to interact with the police in a positive way and see that we are not out there to ruin people’s fun,” Sen Const Holden said.
He said that general duties police officers may also join the program as mentors at some stage, further improving the relationship between young people and police.
“If it works and we keep kids out of trouble, it only reduces their workload,” he said.
Superintendent Paul McDonald said that the program would be unique and exclusive to Bathurst.
“There is other programs run throughout NSW through the police and other organisations, but it is something I’m proud that our youth liaison officer Matt Holden has developed and I see it succeeding quite well.”
Should the program be successful in Bathurst, it may be rolled out to other parts of the district.