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Spreading a message of hope in Mernda

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Max Davies
Max Davies
Max is a journalist for the North Central Review. He joined the paper as a cadet journalist in 2021 and graduated from La Trobe University in 2023. He takes a keen interest in motorsport and the automotive industry.

By Max Davies

Students at Ivanhoe Grammar’s Plenty Campus were last week treated to an afternoon of singing and dancing, presented by a touring group who spread a message of hope to Victorian youth.

The Hope Tour visited schools in the region through a collaboration between community service groups in the municipalities of Whittlesea, Darebin, Banyule and Mitchell Shire – designed to remind young people there are things worth fighting for and to be resilient.

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Chris Sebastian, winner of The Voice Australia in 2020, has also been a prominent figure on this year’s Hope Tour, performing a series of cover songs and encouraging students to participate and support the music through percussive stomps and claps.

Winner of The Voice, Chris Sebastian, was part of the Hope Tour to perform at two schools in Mernda on Friday. ​

Community group Kulture Break also play a major role in the shows, performing dances from a wide range of styles while officers from Mernda Police Station attended and at times joined the crowd.

The tour was also supported by Victoria Police, with Inspector Daniel Jamison working closely with Hope Tour organisers to try and shift the perception of police to a more positive image.

He said it was important to bring together a range of support services for young people to learn about, including police.

“I’ve always said for my police officers that my goal was always that they’d be able to go down the street and one of the kids would say ‘hello Joe, how are you going’ or they can say ‘g’day Johnny how are you’, rather than people looking at police and going ‘I don’t want to talk to them’,” he said.

“It’s a negative interaction, so I’m trying to turn the tables and make it a more positive thing.”

Mr Jamison said the Hope Tour was a good opportunity for police to partner with support services to provide a positive message and support a positive interaction, while also creating a lasting impression on the students.

The tour has performed across Victoria, visiting schools in Bendigo, Geelong and Glen Waverley before two shows in Mernda on Friday.

Kulture Break founder Francis Owusu. ​

Mr Jamison said it was important for students to make connections with police in their area at a young age as it was the best opportunity to make a lasting positive image.

“I’ve been very focused on getting the local police involved from the area where the school is, so it’s not police coming from outside, it’s police who work in those areas who would have the opportunity to deal with issues if they come up in the area,” he said.

“They’re the ones having the interactions with the kids, because they’re the ones that need to build the relationships.

“If we can have a positive interaction with kids at this [age], they’re going to take that positive interaction with them into the years ahead.”

The Hope Tour is financially supported by anonymous philanthropic givers from several church communities, who asked to remain anonymous to keep the focus on supporting young people through resilience.

The concept is also supported by various community groups and Mernda Primary School chaplain and Wellbeing Community Support Network co-founder Chantelle Olafsen.

Ms Olafsen said she was grateful for the support she received in bringing community groups together, particularly from Mernda Primary School.

“The principal Janet Hamer has been really encouraging me to work with police and through the school environment into the community, which has been really good,” she said.

“It wouldn’t be happening if it wasn’t for her.”

The Hope Tour is a free event for schools to host, with organisers looking to continue the positive experience for the rest of the tour and build on the total audience of about 1000 students in Mernda.

For more information and updates, visit the Hope Tour’s Facebook page at www.facebook.com/hopetour.

Kulture Break members Rachel, left, Francis, Ruby, Matt and Ethan perform. ​
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