PATRICIA CORBY (NEE HARRIS)To study developments in community based treatment as an alternative to residential care, with particular reference to teenage girls and their specific problems in unemployment, accommodation and promiscuity - UK
I was stunned to receive my Fellowship! At the time I was working for the then Department of Community Welfare, based in Launceston. I was Senior Child Welfare Officer in charge of ‘Omaru’ the new experimental unit in Union Street moving in to preventive work with teenagers. I ran a pilot scheme for approx 10 teenage girls in the May/June school holidays 1977 for discussion and some games. I had not worked en masse with girls of this age but had enjoyed working with several, singly, who were on my caseload due to their at risk behaviour in the community. I had noted various common problems and other case workers had mentioned they too had girls in similar situations, hence the group approach.
I wanted to know more about preventive community based programs as alternatives to residential care. I had read of work called ‘Intermediate Treatment’ in the United Kingdom. I was thus keen to see this for myself and set off in 1978 for 12 weeks to do so.
When I returned I continued at Omaru, acquired 2 staff members and between us we worked with teenagers of both sexes in different programs. It was very intensive work and when I married in the early 80’s I retired from Omaru to be home for my then, young step-children. I added to my early pre-school teaching qualification with a BA from Deakin University obtained through external study as I wished to continue working with teenagers. I moved to the Education System as I saw this too as an opportunity to work with students through preventive programs. I retired in Dec 2011.
I had a stopover in Frankfurt where I was hosted by the Ministry of Justice for a visit to a women’s prison in the city and a boy’s juvenile centre at Wiesbaden. Preventive work there was prior to age 14, the then age of criminal responsibility in Germany.
In the UK I was very interested in the Scottish Panel System for juveniles and also visited various after school/weekend programs in Aberdeen, Edinburgh and Glasgow. In Northern England I viewed club-house schemes in Liverpool, teenage residential centres in Newcastle and worked with Social Welfare, Police and voluntary agencies. In Wales I worked alongside Community Social Workers, visited day programs and residential ones. In London there were many interesting alternative school and afternoon programs in Southwark, Bethnal Green and Brixton. I was fortunate to be able to attend the National Intermediate treatment Conference held in Birmingham, conveniently timed during my time in the UK.
It was a very exciting, informative and full 12 weeks, especially as programs were often late afternoon/evening and some at weekends. I really valued the small tape recorder I had taken!
FELLOWSHIP CONCLUSIONS & OUTCOMES
I came home excited, motivated and keen to get Omaru up and running. This centre was the first of its kind in Tasmania and attracted some national interest. No program in another place fits one’s own situation completely so it was a matter of sharing what I had learned and working with our team to put into practice what seemed appropriate for the Launceston situation. The overseas links remained useful collaboration outlets and places for which to bounce ideas. The personal growth attributable to this fellowship experience would be hard to capture in words here, it was immense.
Considering the times young people were most at risk we developed after-school programs for late primary students and for teenagers at secondary schools. As we picked up students from schools and returned them home afterwards we developed close relationships with many feeder schools and definitely with participants’ families. We also ran school holiday programs; and eventually some work with students in school hours lead to negotiation with the education department and subsequently the establishment of an alternative school program by them.
I was firmly of the belief that community based programs were a viable alternative to offer at risk young people as the community was where they had got in to trouble and hence should be where they and their families could receive the most support and guidance.
On my return to teaching I continued to focus heavily on the importance of pastoral care for students as a young person having difficulties at home or in the community is rarely ready to settle and grasp fully the opportunity education offers. I am a firm believer to this day in preventive work, whatever the situation.