Kids Back on Track campaign
FORMER Wallaby James ‘Jimmy’ Holbeck is a tough bloke – he’s one of the few people to tackle giant All Black winger Jonah Lomu in full flight.
But the stories he hears at Youth Insearch camps reduce him to tears.
A passionate youth advocate, Mr Holbeck has been involved with the youth support program for two years.
The number of stories at camps that have reduced me to tears and a state of anger we allow these kids to be in these situations.Former Wallaby, James Holbeck
He was introduced to the program through fellow ambassador and Play School start Benita Collings.
“She sent some statistics from an independent review, and I was blown away, the success rate is phenomenal,” Mr Holbeck said.
“I thought this is incredible, I’ve got to see what they’re actually doing.”
“Once I sat in that circle the first night, I could see it was all about the power of connection, feeling like your apart of something.
“There is power in being part of something bigger then yourself, particularly when that bigger thing wants you to do well, despite whatever has happened in the past.”
While Mr Holbeck is a professional rugby union player, who has talked publicly about his own struggles, he said the impact he could make on the program’s participates paled in comparison to what the Youth Insearch leaders could do.
“It doesn’t matter if you’re the Prime Minister of Australia, people won’t listen to you if you can’t connect with them and understand the situation they’re in,” he said.
“The peer leaders have that power to connect. There is real power in their peers telling their story. The group draws wisdom and strength from that.”
Youth Insearch advocates are calling on the government to continue supporting the organisation with $400,000 a year.
New England MP Barnaby Joyce and Social Services Minister Christian Porter recently announced $50,000 for the program and will meet on Thursday to discuss the charity’s funding future.
Mr Holbeck called on the politicians to come to a Youth Insearch camp.
“Sit in one of the circles and try not to be moved by horrific stories these kids have, try not to be moved by the success stories of the peer leaders,” he said.
“The number of stories at camps that have reduced me to tears and a state of anger that we allow these kids to be in these situations.
“It makes me frustrated we can’t do more. We have a program here that is able to do more, and we are not willing to allow it to do more.”