In 2018 YACVic teamed up with Melbourne City Mission to find our next Young Thinker in Residence. When we met Mo Omar we were struck by their charisma and knew that they would bring fascinating ideas to the Young Thinker program. And so they did. Over 12 weeks they worked with us to research youth homelessness and its relationship to Queer Transgender People of Colour (QTPOC). As a QTPOC with lived experience of homelessness, this topic was close to Mo’s heart. Mo was supported by dedicated mentors, while developing practical skills in research, event management, advocacy and policy, accessing leadership and development opportunities and building professional networks.
At the end of their residency, Mo presented ‘Treat Yourself’ — a day to explore alternative therapies such as yoga, mindfulness, art therapy and more. Mo shares with us what they learnt from their time as Young Thinker in Residence. Let’s hear from Mo.
The power of body-based therapies
"My intention was to have a relaxing and inclusive event and I dreamed up some extravagant things."–Young Thinker Mo
I was chosen for the role of Young Thinker and decided to use the opportunity to explore what services are doing to support young Queer Trans People of Colour (QTPOC, pronounced cutie-poc) especially with how they’re providing trauma-informed care and therapy. I wanted to concentrate my effort on guiding people on their journey and empowering them. My project was called ‘Treat Yourself’.
Treat Yourself was founded on the belief that there are other ways to navigate mental illness and trauma besides traditional talk-based therapies. My passion lies in empowerment and prevention, so I explored approaches that would allow me to do that. I focused on body-based styles that didn’t depend on talking. Body-based therapies offer a less confronting way to deal with discomfort as they don’t require talking about difficult things. The event was free, catered, and open to all at the Melbourne Multicultural Hub. Young Queer, Trans, People of Colour (QTPOC), with a disability and homeless experience were prioritised. The program began with yoga led by Lucy Galbraith, music therapy with Asami Koike, a lunch break, art therapy led by Liz and we wrapped up with a mindfulness meditation session.
"It wasn't 'young people' and 'workers', everybody played together and everybody benefited."–Body-based therapy practictioner
"Really love music and music theory, and very happy with the event"–Young person
Young people showed up to ‘Treat Yourself’ eager to learn more about body-based therapies. The participants were open to body-based therapies as a path to better wellbeing. They recognized the importance of self-care and healing from trauma and they identify the support they need to overcome their challenges. It was good to see that they were comfortable in the environment I created and around the workers present.
My intention was to have a relaxing and inclusive event and I dreamed up some extravagant things. Let me just say that although I still wanted a big, fabulous and luxurious event, I was glad to simplify it in order to pull it off. Making it happen was the priority!
I wanted to create a magical day for young people and I knew that I had a brief window to do so — I was ambitious. I came up with so many extravagant ideas where I constantly had to modify them to make them achievable. People were excited and it was great but one of the difficult things was deciding what to do and what to park for another time.
What I learnt from the Young Thinker program
Along the way I learnt that it is very difficult to try and meet up with people in a short period of time, especially when they are part of so many different organizations and groups with conflicting interests and schedules.
There were many times when my goal was to get information from services and workers but I had to answer their questions first. Not everyone understood the terms I was using or the certain challenges that QTPOC face. So I had opportunities to raise awareness on why I chose to focus on this subgroup of young people and the challenges they face.
I have been able to apply the model and strategy, among other skills, that I developed during my role as Young Thinker in my current work with the City of Yarra Council . The Young Thinker program has been a valuable experience that I will use to implement changes around therapeutic support. I hope to develop new strategies that I can offer to services so they improve the support they offer. My intention is to be an independent consultant to services and organisations not just in Victoria, but the world. Watch this space.
A gentle reminder for the youth sector
At the end of their residency, Mo collaborated with YACVic to put together a poster as a gentle reminder for people who work with young people to look after themselves. We love the result and invite you to share the poster through your networks. You can also download a copy of the poster here.
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About the Young Thinker in Residence program
The Young Thinker in Residence program employs young people to research and advocate on a social policy topic. In 2018 YACVic partnered up with Melbourne City Mission to find our Young Thinker.