We may not be doctors, or we may not be surgeons, but we are saving lives. We are helping our next generation to see different journeys. And we are playing that advocate role when other organisations or other people don't understand the life of a young person.–Martha Metuisela
Youth work matters to Martha because growing up in the western suburbs and going through the system, she didn’t see a youth worker from her community to support her.
"Instead of complaining about it, that there's no one out there, why not become a youth worker myself?" says Martha.
Martha runs school programs, and one on one mentoring. She works holistically with young people from Pasifika communities, including young people disengaging from school, mental health, connection to community groups, and staying away from the justice system.
Over the last four years, she’s connected these school programs and mentoring by building up the skills and capacity of Pasifika young people.
“Our first group of ambassadors, the “OGs” group have been with me on this journey. They have become our powerhouses, wanting to make changes in different departments, seeing issues, writing down the solutions, and running Pasifika youth forums in order to improve the lives of Pasifika young people,” says Martha.
She then works with young people in high schools, her “NextGens” and she is able to connect them with her OGs to mentor, provide facilitation training and also create pathways into other opportunities.
When she first started, young people asked if she “was there to tell them off for being in trouble”. Now the roles are reversed.
“Young people are reaching out to me asking for help, and also offering that space for support and for help. Do you need support with anything? Can you help me with my CV writing? Are you able to tell me what cover letter means?
“Young people have been through so much in the last few years, with not enough resources or support. The two year isolation has been a heavy, heavy burden for a lot of young people, particularly to their mental health and their well being a lot of lost confidence, and maybe some of those social skills to interact in the community and interact positively with education. So that's one big challenge that I've seen for young people.
“Another one, of course, is the social isolation that they've been experiencing. Young people have lost the ability to connect in a very pivotal developmental stage, when they're exploring their identity and belonging and everything like that.”
Martha feels it’s important to listen to young people, and invest more to ensure young people can access support, services and connection.
"We may not be doctors, or we may not be surgeons, but we are saving lives. We are helping our next generation to see different journeys. And we are playing that advocate role when other organisations or other people don't understand the life of a young person."
Through her ongoing work and dedication, the Pasifika young people have nicknamed Martha: Auntie Drills.
“In a Pasifika way, when a young person calls you Auntie, that's a sign of respect. And I have a saying which is: go off and be great.”
She’s working with Pasifika young people to pursue their dreams. Whether it’s rugby, becoming a carpenter, staying out of the courts, becoming a CEO or writing a PhD, Martha is proud to be creating healthy cycles of community, connection for young people.
I'm planting seeds into the next generation and I'm the start to let them know that they can be whatever they want to be in the future and supporting them through their journey.–Martha Metuisela
Pasifika young people matter, and that's why youth workers like Martha matter.
Martha shared her story as part of YACVic’s Youth Work Matters campaign. Find out more about the campaign here.