In October, public housing residents in the city of Yarra, in Melbourne, Australia, took a reporting trip to the local zoo.
“Twenty eight people from the Liberian community and 30 Sudanese attended,” resident Akol Mayuol wrote in an article about the excursion. Mayuol’s article, “Community housing children all smiles with trip to zoo,” was published through Yarra Reporter, a free, five-month program to train public housing residents in Yarra in basic journalism and civic reporting.
Since the program’s inception in September 2008, Yarra Reporter has trained residents including migrants and refugees, who are often isolated from society and face high unemployment, drug abuse and language barriers.
Project director Setyo Budi, an Indonesian native, was approached by Infoxchange Australia to run the project in 2008, when he was working in East Timor. Infoxchange Australia is a non-profit organization that utilizes information and communication technologies to support the welfare and well being of Australians.
Now, with a staff of 10 and many volunteers, Yarra Reporter is helping residents report on issues that are significant to them, and demonstrating that they are also active citizens, Budi says. They do "have aspirations about their future," he says.
Through Yarra Reporter, participants learn to report on social issues that affect their livelihood and community, through writing and multimedia skills. Their articles have been published online at Culturalista and New Australia Media.
One article, “Many Moons Sing as One,” received an award from Culturalista for being "well written, engaging, positive and related strongly to the theme of community," Budi says. “The award breaks the stereotypes of poor literacy that often attaches to the public housing residents.”
Last year, the program collaborated with Swinburne University of Technology to enable participants to learn about feature writing. Going forward, Budi envisions Yarra Reporter as a social enterprise that can generate income and employ journalists.
With basic journalism skills, he says, participants "will be able to do further study and pursue careers as journalists."
For more information on the program, visit Yarra Reporter.