Jade Slater believes she was trying to find the easy way out. Like so many of Ballarat’s young people, as a student she was disconnected from her schooling and on the verge of leaving.
“I was just feeling disconnected from anything. I wasn’t feeling like myself because a lot of stuff had happened in my past,” she said.
At 17, Ms Slater was forced out of home and ended up living in a Uniting Care home. However, it was the support provided by youth programs like Youth Connections that got her through the difficult patch.
Like many of the programs designed to keep young people engaged with education, Youth Connections has become a victim of the federal government’s budget cuts.
“Most programs are not targeted for a specific age group, so most will either struggle in school terribly or be out of school running amok around the town and causing trouble,” Ms Slater said.
“More people need help in this community but are afraid to admit it, especially at a young age like 16 or 17 years old.
“There are too many people out there who have no way of knowing what they can do with the right help.”
Despite a difficult period where many young people would have given up, she now works as an apprentice chef at the Golden City Hotel.
“I sort of wanted to get into cooking so, at the same time as trying to complete my year 12, I applied for an apprenticeship at Golden City and I got that,” she said.
“I passed and I have a full-time job and Chris (Youth Connections case worker) helped me get everything I need to start.
“I love it. It is really long hours but I get to experiment and learn new things so I enjoy it. I was trying to apply for easy jobs and find the easy way out rather than try and get qualifications and get somewhere in life.”