Stephen Holmes sets up shop in Kiama

NEARLY two decades’ worth of experience in the public service has taught Kiama’s Stephen Holmes that sometimes you need to be unconventional when helping marginalised youth.

Kiama resident Stephen Holmes, long-time worker in the disability and youth mental health area has launched new approach to working with marginalised young people. Picture: BRENDAN CRABB

Kiama resident Stephen Holmes, long-time worker in the disability and youth mental health area has launched new approach to working with marginalised young people. Picture: BRENDAN CRABB

‘‘Rather than psychological therapies, (where) you get a young man on a couch in an air-conditioned office, and say ‘talk about your feelings’, you don’t get much out of him,’’ he said.

‘‘But put some tools in his hand, a musical instrument or a fishing rod, and start to work from a skills perspective rather than a deficit perspective (and that helps).’’ 

Mr Holmes, 37, launched The Amp Shop in Kiama late last month.  

Mr Holmes, long-time worker in the disability and youth mental health area, launched his new approach to working with marginalised young people.

He formerly worked for the Department of Ageing, Disability and Home Care.

Mr Holmes said he wanted to do more focused work with young people who were struggling with intellectual disability, mental health problems and getting into contact with the criminal justice system.  

He particularly wanted to branch out of the public service in preparation for the changes in the service system arriving in accordance with the National Disability Insurance Scheme.

‘‘There is a group of young people, mostly teenage boys, who are experiencing trauma and disconnection at the locus of the child protection, criminal justice, mental health and disability systems.’’

Mr Holmes said The Amp Shop would incorporate  creative production and interest based projects within an environment which literally activates young people, inviting them to pick up a tool, brush or an instrument.

He said Kiama was well-positioned to help.

‘‘I guess Kiama’s in a unique position in that it has a really strong community spirit, and a sense that we’ve got something to offer both the Illawarra and the Shoalhaven. 

‘‘So being halfway between Wollongong and Nowra, (there’s) big communities of disadvantaged people. 

‘‘Although there are already young people in the Kiama area that need this sort of support. 

‘‘That’ll come from the foster care system, the out of home care system, or the disability sector.

‘‘There’s lots of young people, and the points of connection are often lost when they’re struggling with some of these issues.’’

Mr Holmes said although based in Kiama, he planned for the service to work with clients from throughout the Illawarra and Shoalhaven.

‘‘For young people that are disconnected from family… To the extent that they’ve got themselves into trouble with the law, learning how to be in other people’s presence in a productive way, and a way which doesn’t get them in strife, Kiama’s a good place to do that. 

‘‘It’s a beautiful place, and also somewhere that young people can feel safe to start to work through whatever’s happening.

“When I was young and got myself into a bit of trouble, just the normal stuff kids do, I had mentor–type relationships. ‘‘But for a lot of young people in these systems, the disconnection is such that those positive, particularly male role models aren’t accessible. 

‘‘It’s about in a sense a remedial, social, skill-building approach towards those sorts of relationships that I already had when I was growing up.”

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