Growing up in Western Australia’s remote Kimberley region, Trooper Alexander Williams didn’t have access to many social activities or services.
It’s one of the reasons he joined the Army, and a key motivator for his involvement in the 3rd Brigade’s Proud Warrior program.
The program, developed by the 3rd Brigade’s 2nd Cavalry Regiment in conjunction with a variety of community stakeholders, aims to positively influence at-risk youth within the Townsville community by providing a safe and enjoyable environment for them to be individually mentored, coached and supported.
Trooper Williams said seeing the difference the program had made to the lives of its young participants brought a lot of joy to himself and the other mentors.
“I wanted to be involved in Proud Warrior from day one,” Trooper Williams said.
“Growing up in the Kimberleys we didn’t have a lot of social activities, especially with the military.
“I joined the Army to have more of an impact and to show my family and friends that you can get out of a small town and do something bigger than what you see in front of you.”
It is this mindset, and the aim to provide young people with the skills, values and connections to make positive changes in their lives, that is at the core of the Proud Warrior program.
Officer Commanding Proud Warrior Major Matthew Daniell said the positive impacts that have been made are a credit to the strong partnerships between Defence and the Townsville-based community partners.
“We focus on physical and mental health, leadership and teamwork skills and on how to make good decisions even when things have gone against you,” Major Daniell said.
“A lot of the time the kids are very isolationist – they don’t like to communicate or to share or work with other people – so our mentors work on breaking down those barriers in an environment where there’s no right or wrong way to do things.
“We do that with our soldier-mentors, as well as the Queensland Police Service (QPS) cadets and Department of Youth Justice social workers, who all combine to provide that net around the young person to help them learn and to be educated in a safe, but really fun, environment.”
Seventy-five youth aged between 14-19 participated in the program’s trial, held from October last year to March, with a 71 per cent repeat attendance rate for participants following their first session.
In March, the 3rd Brigade was given approval to conduct Proud Warrior as a permanent program.
“Being able to have this kind of impact on the community is awesome, especially to see how much the kids have grown,” Major Daniell said.
“I think I speak for all the mentors when I say that they didn’t expect to get as much out of it as they have and it has given them a real sense of achievement.”
The program’s fortnightly sessions are conducted by soldiers from across 3rd Brigade, in partnership with QPS, Department of Youth Justice, Department of Child Safety, Department of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Partnerships, Australian Army Cadets and local Indigenous community elders, with additional support provided by Sunbus, Education Queensland and Unity Care.