Touching the community

For the last seven years, Somerville House Year 12 students have been dedicating a couple of afternoons a year, travelling to the Brisbane Youth Detention Centre to participate in an after school touch football game. Recently, the School hosted a special assembly where Brisbane Youth and Education Training Centre teachers, Ms Treyci Maynard and Mr Leo Slowey presented Somerville House with a token of their appreciation in the form of a ceramic trophy made by their students.

Senior teacher and touch football coach at the Brisbane Youth and Education Training Centre, Ms Maynard said the artwork that adorns the ceramic plate of the trophy was chosen from one of the pieces made by a student in ceramics class, just one of the many subjects offered at the centre.

“We chose an art piece made by one of our Young People (YP) which resonates the family ties and connections made and built within our centre,” Ms Maynard said.

Commenting on the long-standing partnership between the centre and Somerville House, Ms Maynard said a program such as this has many positive benefits for her students.

“For over seven years now, and well before my time, Somerville House has driven from the city to Wacol to engage with our youth,” Ms Maynard said.

“[This program] gives us the opportunity to engage with other students and these visits from the girls benefit our centre - the girls, in particular, feel ‘somewhat normal’,” she said.

“It encourages participation in sport and their positive behaviour – it is a privilege to be a part of this program because girls are considered for this after school fixture.”

“I thank the School for the efforts that they make coming into the centre every term, and we look forward to our ongoing relationship and sporting fixtures with Somerville House,” Ms Maynard said.

Senior Chaplain at Somerville House, Ms Chris O’Gorman said the program began in 2008 when a colleague from another school organised for their students to play touch.

“The first time we went in was actually in 2008 when a friend of mine used to take girls from her school in as well. Then my contact person left the centre after two years, and it lapsed,” Ms O’Gorman said.

“In 2011 we had one visit, then it really picked up in 2013, and we started visiting two or three times a year. The Year 12 students that year were very keen and remembered the older girls reporting back on their visits in previous years,” she said.

“I made a ‘cold call’ and fortunately got a sympathetic staff member who was keen to revive the program, and we have been going every year since.”

Reflecting on the many benefits of a program such as this, Ms O’Gorman said it goes a long way in breaking down stereotypes, with Somerville House students given the opportunity to meet girls from different cultural and ethnic backgrounds and learning to interact with them.

“Students often express appreciation for what their own parents have done for them, especially when they learn that a girl might deliberately do something to come back to the centre because it is better than their home, for example, they are safe, they get fed, and they can complete their education without interruptions,” Ms O’Gorman said.

“It is good for our students to put themselves out there to give to the community and they quickly learn how many privileges and opportunities they have compared to others,” she said.