“I started out really nervous. I didn’t know anyone, and I had never done any public speaking,” said Bradley, a young person who participated in the recent Taz Kids Youth Camp.
“By the end of camp my confidence was boosted; I wasn’t nervous at all. I had made loads of new friends and learnt a lot about team work. I even found public speaking quite easy once I’d learnt a few skills and had the opportunity to practise,” he said.
“I have signed up with my local council to be part of a new group where young people are encouraged to contribute ideas. I am hoping this will provide me with an opportunity to put my new skills to work. I feel that I learnt lots at camp that will help me to be a leader in my own community.”
The Taz Kids Youth Camp ran in the first week of February for 5 days.
“This group of amazing young people restored my faith in teenagers,” said Cassandra Ogden, Co-ordinator of Taz Kids.
“Considering the level of trauma that many of these young people have experienced in their short lives, their resilience, enthusiasm and willingness to be vulnerable and trust others was truly inspirational,” she said.
Taz Kids runs this leadership camp every two years for young people aged 14 - 18 years from around the state. The camps are designed to provide support, education and fun activities with the objective of developing leadership qualities in these young individuals.
The young people were asked to submit an application stating why they wanted to become ambassadors for positive mental health in Tasmania.
Responses included having friends or family impacted by mental health issues such as suicide and depression, as well as personal experiences of self-harm, anxiety and bullying.
All young people expressed a wish to learn more about ways to support someone they cared for, who was experiencing difficulty in coping.
Thirty applications were received this year and eleven young people were selected to participate in this year’s camp at Camp Clayton near Ulverstone.
“The camp is always a lot of fun, but there is also a great deal of hard work expected of the campers. Classes started at 8.00 am and didn’t finish until 8.00 pm, and we often ran movies that were mental-health oriented until 10.30 pm. So it was no walk in the park,” said Cassandra.
Classroom-based lessons covered topics such as leadership, assertiveness, self-care and public speaking. The outdoor activities such as rock-wall climbing, high-ropes course and giant swing were designed to stretch boundaries and overcome fears.
“Conquering my fear of heights and tackling the high-ropes course and giant swing was my greatest challenge. I enjoyed seeing everyone encouraging each other and giving it a go,” said Bradley.
“To see the young people develop as the week progressed is the most rewarding aspect of my job,” said Cassandra. “Witnessing their level of confidence and self-esteem grow as they overcame their fears was wonderful.”
Towards the end of the week after they had built trust as a team, the young people tackled their most challenging activity: telling their own story.
“They sat quietly with such deep respect for the person sharing their story. There was a profound sense of awareness that they were not alone, their pain is not the only pain,” said Cassandra.
“This was heart wrenching for the whole group as the stories were very emotional and the courage of the young people in sharing was just awesome,” she said.
“Through sharing their stories they developed a huge empathy for others and suddenly became a much closer-knit group. The privilege of being allowed into someone’s deepest feelings created an amazingly powerful position of trust amongst the group.”
The Taz Kids Program uses early prevention and intervention strategies, and there is nothing else like it in Tasmania. Anglicare staff wrote the program and have further developed it over time.
“I have the best job in the world,” said Cassandra. “I can’t tell you how amazing our staff are that help run these camps. Their dedication, passion, enthusiasm and drive is beyond words. They honestly are the best team to work with.”
The end of the week brought joy and tears as the young people swapped contact details and were reluctant to go their separate ways armed with new skills, new friends, new knowledge, new strength and new confidence to make a difference in their community.
“I made tonnes of excellent friendships through this camp,” said Bradley. “I would certainly recommend it to others.”