Geelong Youth Engagement Program helps youth at risk

Nineteen young people had the chance to change while walking the Kokoda trail alongside police officers.

The scheme, run by Geelong Youth Engagement, is now in its 10th year and gives struggling young Victorians the chance to conquer the invincible.

Ruby O’Neil, 16, has been training with the group every week for seven months after being selected by her school.

Nineteen young people had the chance to change while walking the Kokoda trail alongside police officers. (A current affair)

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“I was one of 11 kids and (when) my parents separated and my dad moved out, it was pretty hard without him,” O’Neil said.

Since joining the program, she said she “never felt more loved”.

“I kind of lost that great sense of family because I came from such a big house,” she said.

Ruby O’Neil, 16. (A Current Affair)

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Former Victoria Police Officer Andy Brittain set up the program after years of working with at-risk youth.

“What they get out of it is resilience,” Brittain said A topical matter.

“They get strong, they also pick up a new family.”

Andy Brittain, former Victoria Police officer. (A current affair)

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Constable Lachlan Todd, who was among the first group of children to go to Kokoda ten years ago, recently graduated as a Victoria Police officer after turning his life around.

“I wasn’t a very good teenager,” Todd said.

“I was very arrogant.

Officer Lachlan Todd. (A current affair)

“It gives kids someone they can look up to, someone they can talk to.

“They don’t have to go through things alone, they know someone will be there.”

Approximately 127 young people have now completed the program.

For more information about the program, visit here.

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