Helen Xiros was born in the early 1980s in Australia to Greek parents. She trained as a social worker and came to work at the Millers Point Youth Centre, operated by the City of Sydney Council, where she ran programs including mentoring, building skills, continuing education and creative pursuits. In her interview she discusses the role of the Youth Centre in the local community, her work there, the complexities of life for young people living in the local area and the strong bond they share with one another. In the excerpt below she describes the positive response she has had from local people and the benefits to young people of the Youth Centre.
This interview is part of Housing NSW’s 2005 Millers Point Oral History Project. The City of Sydney acknowledges the State Library of New South Wales as the archival custodian of the project and digital preserver of the masters.
It is actually a very welcoming community, I’ve had no problems with any of the parents or community members, none of the young people. It is quite surprising that the young people are very open and very welcoming to new staff here. From day one I’ve had nothing but positive feedback from the kids – they haven’t in any way made me feel unwelcome.
The parents themselves are quite supportive of the youth centre itself. There is nothing in the area to get them off the streets, so with a youth centre to get them off the street they are welcome to anything. When I say ‘on the street’ I mean there is nothing for them to do, so they are sitting on the street playing football, or just hanging around. That is what I mean by ‘on the street’ – basically there is no space for them, there are no outdoor parks where they can play a game of touch football, or play a game of basketball out on the street. They tend to play in the middle of the road because there is no outdoor space that is sufficient for them to play in. That is what I mean, when they are on the street they are just in their groups, hanging around, so they are seen as trouble makers because they are hanging around in large groups of people. You will have some being like teenagers, running around and look like they are doing something terrible but they are really just having fun.
The youth centre just gives them an opportunity where it is a safe environment, where they can come inside; it is a space that is their own. There are rules, but they are quite basic rules that they have to respect and they have a great respect to the centre in that they understand that is their space and if they ruin it they don’t get it again, so they have much respect for it.