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Kids settle into play

At three o’clock, the Settlement Neighbourhood Centre in Darlington begins to fill with children reports Jennifer Bennett in Central of 8th October 2008.

Some sit down quietly and get on with their homework.

Others run around, perform acrobatic feats on the trampoline, or battle for domination on the centre’s PlayStation.

Up to 35 children come to the centre, which also does holiday activities and support, every afternoon.

In the backyard, a barbecue is being set up, preparing for that evening’s meal.

“We’ve been having a real good turnout, since our last trip to the Gold Coast they’ve all been coming back,” co-ordinator Peter Power said.

“They’re better in here than on the street, especially lately with the police harassment… they get fed here, they’ve got sports.”

Targeting the disadvantaged children who live in the area on and around Eveleigh Stas well as the wider indigenous community, the centre provides a range of services.

There are youth and health workers, a women’s sewing club, a men’s group and sports activities, as well as dinner every evening for local children. It runs off grants and donations and relies on volunteers.

“What we’ve tried to do is create a space to give a community person an opportunity to display his skills and a safe environment for the youth to drop in,” Vicky Winters, the centre’s CEO said.

Building a sense of culture in the youth of the area is a key goal of the centre.

A recent project had students research their animal totems, which required them to talk to their families about where they had originally come from, before painting pictures of their animals.

Stephen Green, who worked with the boys, and Kim Redmen, who helped the girls, said it had been rewarding.

“They learn where the come from. Most of them didn’t know what a totem was when they started,” Mr Green said.

Ms Winters said that the most important thing was engaging with the children.