Last, but certainly not least, we come to the final ungrouped Independent candidate, and indeed the final stage in this apparently endless Election Project – Glenn Shea.
Glenn Shea has virtually no online presence, and indeed, finding the correct Glenn Shea on google was a bit of a challenge. Fortunately, his Senate listing showed his occupation as Koori Youth Justice Worker, which pretty much caught my interest immediately. Shea is an indigenous storyteller and actor, who is part of the Koorie community at Wathaurong, near Geelong. I can’t find anything whatsoever about his policies, so instead I’m going to tell you a bit about the program which he founded and in which he works, on the grounds that I strongly suspect it informs his thinking and the sort of policies he’s likely to represent or put forward.
The Wathaurong Education Program is loosely structured around a nine-to-five working week, with a variety of activities and opportunities available to participants each day. A blend of cultural education, creative expression, outdoor activities and basic literacy, numeracy and computer skills, the program also links with mainstream services.
About 10 young people aged 10 to 19 attend the program regularly, while a further eight or nine people drop in and out. For some of the participants the program is a compulsory part of their court orders, for others it is voluntary.
“Our main focus is young offenders who come into contact with the criminal youth justice system, don’t go to school and are simply not interested or motivated,” said Mr Shea.
“It’s frontline work. It’s dealing with young Koories who are engaged in drugs, alcohol and crime. And it’s about looking at their identity, place and belonging, and what their role and responsibilities are within that.”
Mr Shea said the program was not a ‘quick fix’ but planted the seeds for longterm development.
“We offer young Koories the opportunity to understand how to challenge their own thinking and behaviour, and make alternative choices and decisions….”
At the end of the program they take part in a 10-day cultural gathering on the Wathaurong traditional lands, where they talk to Elders and learn about cultural practices, heritage and artifacts such as scar trees and water holes.
“Many of these kids live in a very dark world and this program provides structure and consistency, and gives them a chance to see the different shades of life. They often think they are the lowest of the low, and don’t realise how much they have to contribute,” said Mr Shea.
The program includes a community radio component – the kids learn how to plan and produce a radio program, which both builds practical and teamwork skills, and gives them a voice in the community, something most of these kids don’t feel they have otherwise.
Shea has also written several plays, reflecting on his experience as a Stolen Generation child, and has created an educational board game called ‘Indigenous Storyteller’, which “provides knowledge and understanding of Aboriginal people, society and cultural in a fresh, fun and stimulating way. It encourages student inquiry whilst engaging student in literacy and numeracy skills. The educational resource is also generic and non-political.”.
All in all, Shea sounds like an interesting and talented person, and someone I’d like to know. I suspect he’d come up with very good policies on indigenous health and the juvenile justice system. I’m rather inclined to vote for him, even without knowing what his precise policies are, just on the basis of his current work. I really don’t know where to put him on my ticket. I want to put him first, but without knowing what his policies actually are and why he’s running, I’m reluctant to do so. I hope, though, that he will consider developing a political career further – we need more Aboriginal voices in Parliament, and Shea sounds like someone who has found ways to interact both with the Aboriginal and the non-Aboriginal community, to the benefit of both.