Dismantling youth disadvantage

Tayler Hardie walks into the Dismantle workshop in West Perth, his wide smile a sign of the positivity emanating from within. He collects a broken bike for a friend and is excited that he has the skills, knowledge and opportunity to fix it.

Rewind five months and Hardie would not have wanted to do this act of kindness or even been able to repair a bike. That was before the Dismantle experience turned his life around.

Tayler Hardie standing outside the Dismantle workshop. Photo: Elena Morabito.

Dismantle is a not-for-profit Perth organisation helping disadvantaged young people acquire new skills and experience to become self-sufficient. It started in 2011 with the BikeRescue program in which young people build two bikes from scratch. At the end of the program, one bike is donated to charity and the other goes home with its builder. Schools and youth centres identify disadvantaged young people and recommend them to Dismantle for the program. After completing BikeRescue, motivated participants can become employees of ReNew Property Maintenance, where they will maintain the outdoor areas of commercial businesses. They work one day each week, to give them experience and skills to find long term employment.

Tayler Hardie was not given many opportunities in life, which he says led to him mixing with the wrong crowds and spending his money carelessly. Dismantle’s programs have helped the 26-year-old turn his life around and he is now trying to give back as much as he can.

He says everything about the course has excited him and he is grateful for the many skills he has learnt. He believes the ReNew program gives young people the opportunity to learn about how to behave in the workplace and gives them their first day of work.

“If you’re given an opportunity like this, you have to think ‘right, there’s people out there in the world that don’t have jobs, they don’t have a house. We have to be thankful for what we’ve got and share it around if we’ve got it,” Hardie says.

“It’s just little things that make me feel good about what I’m doing with my life and changing my lifestyle. There is nothing that I have to worry about now. Every day I wake up, I smile, I look forward to my day,” he says.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics found more than 28,000 young people in Western Australia are unemployed as of August 2020. According to a Brotherhood of St Laurence March 2019 report, WA has the second-highest youth unemployment rate in Australia (15-24 year olds) at 14.5 per cent. Even more distressing, research by the WA Commissioner for children and young people found almost 30 per cent of all applicants for WA public housing are under the age of 18.

Dismantle tackles those challenges by giving young people the social and problem-solving skills to increase their job prospects.

Dismantle helps disadvantaged youth by giving them new opportunities. Infographic: Elena Morabito.

Pat Ryan is the chief executive of Dismantle. He started his career at the Department of Child Protection and is passionate about helping the most disadvantaged youth in our communities. Ryan says the most common issue participants’ face is poverty, which can come with a wide range of compounding challenges such as low education attainment, substance abuse, and domestic violence. Aforementioned research by the WA Commissioner for Children and Young People shows up to 17 per cent of WA children and young people are believed to live below the poverty line.

Bike Rescue is a 10-week rebuild-a-bike program delivered to 400 young people each year. The aim is for participants to reach out and engage in manual tasks.

Ryan says the bike workshops are beneficial, but the property business ReNew allows Dismantle to employ young people for six to 12 months and give them easily accessible manual tasks along with ongoing mentorship.

Pat Ryan telling a dad joke to ReNew recruits. Photo: Elena Morabito.

He says the most rewarding aspect of working with young people is to see them changing internally from the ‘I can’t’ mindset to ‘I can’, becoming more outgoing and confident and taking control of their lives.

Tayler Hardie says the Dismantle staff members go to great lengths to provide support to young people, from giving personal advice to helping write resumés. For plucking him out of the bike course and giving him an employment opportunity, Hardie claims he has one person to thank: Jessica Stewart.

Jessica Stewart is the youth transitions manager and a BikeRescue Mentor. Her difficult childhood inspired her to support young people facing similar challenges.

“I didn’t have the best upbringing myself. I come from drug addicted parents, parents that were incarcerated, so I didn’t have the best start in life and I didn’t really have anyone to show me what to do or where to go,” she says.

Dismantle has run BikeRescue school holiday programs in regional areas such as Karratha, Kalgoorlie and Mullewa for many years.

“In Mullewa, the police reported it was the first time in seven years there was no incidence of youth crime for a week during the school holidays and attributed it to the program.”

– Pat Ryan, Dismantle CEO

However, the organisation wanted to provide a self-sufficient program to regional WA, which sparked the idea for BikeRescue Local. Dismantle found youth workers in regional areas and trained them to become BikeRescue mentors in their community. One such worker is George Devereux, a coordinator for Yaandina youth services, who helped establish a BikeRescue Local program in Roebourne, 44 km east of Karratha, with its first workshop held on October 21. The youth coordinator used the young people’s affinity for bikes to foster relationships with youth workers in an informal environment.

Every BikeRescue participant gets to choose the charity to which they donate their bike.Tayler Hardie decided to give his first bike to a women’s refuge, but some bikes are donated to other charities such as the Australian Red Cross.

Ashraff Mohammad is a Red Cross case manager who started working with Dismantle in December 2019. Thanks to BikeRescue, Mohammad was able to provide a bike to each of the six orphans who arrived that year after losing their parents overseas. He believes the BikeRescue program is a great initiative. As most Red Cross clients have come to Australia fleeing war and persecution, many of the children have never had the luxury of playing outside, let alone riding a bike.

Children who received bikes from Dismantle through the Australian Red Cross. Photo: Supplied.

“Most families use the bikes that they receive through Dismantle because they don’t have a car, because they are leaving their country, most of them don’t have a driver’s license. And some families use that as their means of transportation, grocery shopping, appointments, some kids go to school with those bikes,” he says.

Mohammad says the organisation has received 29 pushbikes from the BikeRescue program, but close to 50 people are on a waiting list.

Joanne Lisipatama, site manager of the Mandurah-based STATUS employment services site, has helped organise BikeRescue programs for STATUS’ unemployed young people since 2019. She says this alternative way of teaching helps job seekers to regain confidence and learn new skills in a judgment-free environment. Lisipatama believes the tailored approach of the BikeRescue program appeals to younger clients as many of them tend to get lost in the system. The employment services have participated in two programs and have renewed their partnership with Dismantle to continue providing BikeRescue to unemployed youth.

Dismantle’s impact on young people, the environment, and the community since 2011. Infographic: Supplied.

Vojin Zivkovic, a teacher at Leeming Senior High School’s learning and support centre, attended the Dismantle bike workshops with 10 of his students.

“These are Year 10 and 11 students who are going on work experience next term and of course in the future so we want them to be as safe as possible while still learning all those amazing work skills,” he says.

He believes the participants have learnt how to better communicate, work in a team and be on time. He has also seen many positive changes in their behaviour.

Jessica Stewart says all Dismantle staff members share the same philosophy: if they can change one young person’s life, then they’ve done their job. She says every young person she has worked with over the past six years has stayed with her, and she plans on never leaving the organisation.

She also believes that the young people need to have a support system beyond Dismantle to ensure they have all the appropriate information they need to make a better start in life.

At the beginning of each course, she considers the problems faced by each young person and wonders what issues she is going to have with them, but by the end of it, they are all “like a little family”.

When asked what she wishes people knew about disadvantaged young people, Stewart says in a loud voice: “Don’t give up on them, don’t give up on them so easy!”

Testimony from ReNew recruit. Photo: Supplied.