our history

CYSS & Skillshare – 1980’s

In the early 1980’s, a group of local people thought something should be done for the young people who were leaving school but not entering paid employment. A committee was formed and funding was successfully received from the then Liberal federal government headed by Malcolm Fraser. Under the Community Youth Support Scheme (CYSS), country towns could apply for funds to run various courses and programs for young unemployed people. A call was made for volunteers to work on programs and in 1982, Forster CYSS commenced from a rented building at 10 Breckenridge Street Forster (now the site of Tobwabba Art Gallery). Forster CYSS offered a diverse range of training programs including leatherwork and lead-lighting, sowing, planting and marketing of cauliflowers (with local farmers volunteering acreage, a tractor and guidance).

Operating from Breckenridge Street and later from an upstairs office at Forster Shopping Village (even from a boat shed at the end of South Street for a time), Skillshare ran various programs including JobSkills, Landcare and Environment Action Programs (LEAP) that conducted land repair and enhancement works, and other programs that focused on providing and supporting opportunities for young people, particularly Aboriginal unemployed, long term unemployed, homeless and offenders.

Relationships were established with Forster Local Aboriginal Land Council (FL ALC) – relationships that saw the creation of enterprises such as Medika, a nursery (plant propagation and regeneration business) and, in 1989, of Tobwabba Art Gallery, an award winning Aboriginal art and design studio / Aboriginal arts marketing network, managed by Community Resources up until 2004.

In 1983, there was a change of government and with Paul Keating as Prime Minister and Kim Beasley heading the employment ministry, new reforms (Working Nation) to youth unemployment were made. The new Labor government believed it was unfair for young people to be involved in programs that were not linked to vocational outcomes and that these programs were not adequate in preparing young people for employment. Reforms were introduced around job-readiness and real participation in society i.e. having a job and being competitive in the labour market. The focus shifted to meeting local industry employment needs and CYSS courses adopted a vocational theme e.g. hospitality, building, fishing and oyster farming and tourism.

By 1989, other changes included Forster CYSS being becoming an incorporated organisation, Great Lakes Community Resources (Community Resources) Incorporated. CYSS became Skillshare and this involved taking more formal governance and accountability for programs. The shared aim of Skillshare and CYSS was to assist unemployed people, particularly those who were disadvantaged.

The Homebase brand – 1990’s

In the mid 1980’s, Great Lakes Council employed a Community Development Officer (CDO), this was a new concept to Council at the time. The CDO proposed and received funding for two DoCS funded roles - a Youth Development Officer (state funded) and a Youth Accommodation Worker (50% state / 50% federal). Because of Skillshare’s infrastructure and because of its track record in targeting programs to young people with differing needs, the two roles were offered to Skillshare to auspice – Skillshare accepted. Community Resources now needed another entity targeting young people and in 1992, Homebase Youth Service was born. The Youth Development Worker wrote a winning funding application under the Area Assistance Scheme for a part-time Aboriginal Youth Worker. All three roles are still funded by DoCS (State and Federal) today.

Provision of health, housing, employment, advocacy and referral services ran in tandem with projects such as fashion parades involving participation at all levels from fabric design and deportment, sewing clothes and event management to Youth Theatre involving writing, producing and participating in theatrical productions, poetry and hip-hop workshops, sporting activities and mentoring programs.

The current Homebase site at 17 Peel Street Tuncurry was saved from being part of the now neighbouring car park in 1995. Homebase was on the lookout for another site - the shopping village office was not popularly accessible to young people and was also costly. The old building was sighted by committee members who then approached Great Lakes Council. Again, the Council demonstrated their commitment to supporting local youth by approving its use –in the beginning through an informal resolution on Council books and given to Community Resources (now on a five-year lease for a nominal amount). The initial renovation was made possible by Community Resources reserves and also by a group of young people learning carpentry and building skills via a Skillshare training program.

Continuing youth & community development commitments - 2000’s

In 1996, the Skillshare program was axed nationally. Community Resources, having developed a diverse range of programs, services and enterprises, continued its community development mission and to generate, create and provide options for local young people.

New Moon Productions funded by Indent (Music NSW) was formed in 1998 and was implemented to provide music events (supervised and drug and alcohol free) for young people including Lucky Dip Theatre Company and New Moon Dance Parties. Over time, volunteer committee members (local young people) developed new skills, contacts and experience which led to larger and increasingly popular events such as the Battle of the Bands, Commotion by the Ocean and King of the Kr8ter.

Battle of the Bands creates a forum for young people to make and consume their music locally and provides opportunities for up-and-coming bands to gain constructive feedback from music industry professionals. Originally starting in 1996, it has now become an annual event for the New Moon Productions Committee.

Commotion by the Ocean is another popular event run by the Indent committee (since 2003). The youth event has grown considerably over the past few years and has now gained a strong reputation as a successful summer music festival.

The above events are created by young people for young people, ensuring they remain relevant and popular. Being a Committee member provides an opportunity for young people to develop their own ideas for events and then learn the skills in order to make it a reality. The events also create a sense of community, making it safer for young people to participate and contribute in a safe drug and alcohol free environment.

The Loop, a youth venue in South St Tuncurry, was officially opened in 2005. The Lands Department owns the land and Girl Guides owned the building. With the help of Council, Community Resources became the trustee. Community Resources renovated the old building spending $120,000, ($40,000 from the Area Assistance Scheme and the balance from Community Resources reserves). A Green Corps crew (environmental and youth development focus) helped with the renovations and landscaping and Community Resource’s Home Modification Service with the deck and installation of water tanks. The idea of the Loop was to provide a youth venue. It has since hosted events such as Lollapaloopa, Four Fridays of Fame, Movie Nights and the New Moon Battle of the Bands. It is utilised by Homebase Youth Service for its supported playgroup (Families NSW funded) and projects such as YouthConnect and Positive Power and also for a variety of community activities including yoga and adult education.

The Green Jobs Corps program has been delivered annually by Homebase since 2003. This federal government employment initiative provides opportunities for young unemployed people to participate in conservation, preservation and environmental projects. While gaining valuable practical experience during the six-month project, participants also gain a nationally recognised qualification in land management and conservation. Examples of past projects include renovation of a youth venue, landscaping and planting a native garden, bushland and dunal regeneration, landscaping and planting a sensory garden in an aged care facility, water quality testing and reporting, native seed collection and propagation, paving and landscaping access ways for people with disabilities. The 2009 project involves, in partnership with Great Lakes Council, stabilisation works at Number One Beach, Seal Rocks with complementary regeneration works in the bordering littoral rainforest in Myall Lakes National Park. The project involves a diverse range of activities from weeding, planting, collecting and propagating native seed to maintaining tracks, collecting beach debris and identifying bush tucker or a threatened sea grass species. The projects are designed to springboard young people into environmental fields of work.

In 2008, Homebase coordinated the design and painting of two murals at Forster Main Beach. This was a partnership project with Great Lakes Council and artist, Donna Rankin, involving Year 8 students who developed a design that reflected a youth issue and can now be seen along the wall of the beach.

Also in 2008, a NSW Attorney General Department funded program "Understanding You Understanding Me" was piloted over a twelve-month period and assisted young Indigenous males identified as young offenders or at risk of offending. This included educational, recreational and cultural components for participants, partnerships with local school, police and health representatives and evaluation and planning development opportunities for workers. In the same year, and in partnership with Forster Neighbourhood Centre, the Girls Work program involved a group of local Indigenous school girls building, naming, painting and sailing a kit Fire-Bug boat, the "Winmurra Bug".

Ongoing Homebase programs include the Supported Playgroup for families with children 0 – 8 years which aims to develop parenting skills in young parents by organising programs specific to group needs. Others include the Department of Juvenile Justice funded program (since 2008) which engages young offenders in activities that provide opportunities for positive skills development; ASHOW, a school homework program for young people which is supported by tutoring assistance, transport, nutrition and social opportunities; youth housing advice, support and assistance; school holiday sport and recreation programs for Indigenous youth; annual participation and development of Youth Week activities in collaboration with other youth services and in partnership with Great Lakes Council.

Reflections and considerations

Homebase Youth Service has evolved in response to changing community needs, funding availability and availability of expertise. Its success can be attributed to the flexibility created by having people located together, including youth workers from other organisations; ongoing relationships with funding body and partnership personnel who have held their positions for awhile enabling trust in funding agreements and contracts; appropriate partnerships; and a dedicated team of creative ground-level workers who bring ideas which are supported by management and administrative personnel i.e. asset based community development.

In light of this, challenges potentially facing Homebase Youth Service include funders being more interested in larger organisations rather than smaller ones (economies of scale), being innovative when programs have to be tailored to meet funding requirements, and building awareness and understanding of policy development and capitalising on it.