A DOZEN of the most disadvantaged teens from Wodonga had an audience with Clive Palmer and their local member, Cathy McGowan, at Old Parliament House last night.
They were part of the HighWater Theatre group which performed MindFields ... Burns too Bright, a play based on their experiences of youth mental health and the issues they face.
Audience members were moved to tears as they saw how issues of abuse, homelessness, bullying and mental illness influenced teens’ ability to have “real choice through education”.
The teens are part of a local arts-led education initiative called HighWater, started as an offshoot to prisons program Somebody’s Daughter to address local youth falling behind in mainstream education.
“Fourteen years ago there was a pilot program looking at young people in foster care and residential care and ... whether there’s a way to stop the young people from getting into the adult system of prisons,” Karen Taylor, lead artist with Somebody’s Daughter, who performed in the play, said.
“The program’s been going ever since ... it transforms, it nourishes the soul and it’s also a place where these kids belong. We’re a big dysfunctional family.”
Member for Indi Ms McGowan invited the group to Canberra after seeing it in Wodonga.
The group will tour Parliament House today and meet with Education Minister Christopher Pyne, something Ms Taylor said was important for the teenagers, some of whom come from “pretty horrific” backgrounds.
“(We want to say) there are really big issues here ... come on board, start addressing it,” she said.
“You’re hearing it from the horse’s mouth.
“It’s OK to sit up there and debate it and do all of that but there’s real people here.”