LETS be honest here, Armadale isn’t always given a good wrap. It’s often the butt of jokes (which I’ve been guilty of myself) and some media reports about this community can be quite negative towards its youth.
A few weeks ago, I was approached by Save the Children WA to "change the story” and shine a light on Armadale in a positive way. So, I agreed.
She told me their aim was to find positive stories of kids from the area that show their resilience and their contribution and promote those to combat the negative publicity young people from the area received.
Karina Chicote and her comrades - a group of people and organisations like Save the Children, City of Armadale, Police, YMCA - have banded together and created the Youth Partnership Project (YPP). They have been working in the Armadale area for six years and proving that when you work together you can change the story.
YPP are extremely passionate about what they do.
I was lucky enough to sit down with Karina last week, she was bursting with pride and enthusiasm on the work they do and the progress she has seen.
The YPP team work very closely with disadvantaged youth in the South East Corridor and have made it their mission to help, educate and mentor them.
“We all could have predicted six years ago who were going to be the kids (eight-year-olds) going to juvie today, so, collectively as a group we agreed that we were going to take responsibility for identifying who these kids are and make sure they get the right support to stop them going down that path," Karina said.
She explained the young people they came across didn’t choose the life they were born into, and that sadly many of them experienced extreme family violence, inter-generational poverty, welfare dependence, and many of their role models had been in and out of jail or on drugs.
“We want to change the narrative of low expectations of kids that come from Armadale to stories of hope and resilience," she added.
So, as I promised to Karina, this column is for showcasing the brilliant work the YPP do and celebrate some amazing teens that have defied the odds.
One such person is the unbelievably inspiring Danikka Calyon, a proud, 18-year-old Noongar woman from Armadale
Growing up Danikka witnessed it all. Her father was in and out of jail, some family members as well as those is her community were either involved in criminal activities of affected by drug and alcohol abuse.
Karina told me that for Danikka's first few years of high school, she was discouraged from completing her ATAR along with other disadvantaged students. She said they were also discouraged from aspiring to attend university and told to complete practical certificates that would support them in low-skilled jobs.
But that didn't stop Danikka from aiming higher, Karina added.
“She started attending two programs that are a part of the YPP, in 2011 as a 13-year-old," she said. "However it quickly became clear she was a role model for other children and in 2015, she was employed as a youth mentor with Save the Children as well as a coaching role with the City of Armadale’s Drug Aware Ignite Basketball program.”
In 2014, Danikka undertook a series of cognitive testing which revealed that she was highly intelligent.
After this, YPP and its partners supported Danikka in applying for a scholarship at Mercedes Ladies College where she went on to be a Prefect in Year 12.
But her success didn't stop there.
In September 2015, whilst in Year 11, she travelled to Canberra and New York as a Youth Ambassador, where she lobbied for change for Australia’s young people, particularly Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders.
“Danikka blossomed in Canberra," Karina explained. "I went with her for moral support, but as soon as we got there, it was clear she was in her element and she really came into her own meeting with Ministers of Parliament to talk about what young people in Australia really needed.”
Just after Canberra, Danikka flew to New York to represent Australia’s youth on the world stage at the United Nations General Assembly. It was there that she met with several Prime Ministers, UN representatives and high profile and influential Australians.
Today, Danikka is completing a bridging course to enable her to study Counter Terrorism at university.
She is just one of the many success stories out of Armadale, that show if we all work together we can #changethestory.
To see all the great work the Youth Partnership Project click here.