How many people come from places that carry bad reputations? How heavy is it to say the name of your hometown?
This is a story about a generation of young people who come from one of these stigmatised locations, except they have decided enough is enough - no more shame. They had to change the narrative, because their lives literally depend on 'living with your held held high'.
But to understand their achievements you need to know how hard they've had to fight.
They live in the Three M suburbs of Manoora, Manunda and Mooroobool, in the outer suburbs of Cairns in tropical North Queensland, where the general population is around two-hundred and forty thousand people and one in ten are Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander peoples.
Ask any Cairns local about the Three M suburbs they will all have a story or a strong opinion. These suburbs have a reputation for being rough around the edges, dens of crime and disorder, populated predominantly with Indigenous residents.
As a child I used to live in Manunda for a few years and I attended Cairns West State School, which caters to the Three M suburbs. Today many of my family and friends live and work in the area.
However in the broader community of Cairns, much of the blame for social unrest and unlawful activities is upon our shoulders, in spite of our small population.
In response to the crime levels, what was once justified communal outrage has since grown to now be a steady-stream of covert racism that is espoused weekly across the letters page of the news outlets and on talk-back radio across the region.
When it comes to the issues related to our youth, the Queensland Police Service seem to be at a loss, even with the recent influx of police sent up from Brisbane. Such are the perceived problems around youth crime that the Queensland Government has announced $15 million in funding to establish three Community Youth Response initiatives across the state, with one in Cairns.
Despite these persistent issues and the subsequent negative stereotyping, there has been some ingenuity in addressing and preventing young people in the area from venturing into a life of juvenile crime.
In Cairns, 3MPride is one community youth group that is working tirelessly to change the negative attitudes and reclaim their suburbs. Founded in 2016 on the request of Manoora, Manunda and Mooroobool locals, it began as an initiative of the Cairns Safer Streets Taskforce.
Today 3MPride is proudly managed by community volunteers who work with the young people of the “M” suburbs, engaging them in initiatives such as community clean-ups and volunteering their time at public events. Aside from maintaining a presence within the community, the group also works with their members to facilitate creative endeavours and leadership development training.
Project Leader, Amy Eden shared some of the great work the 3MPride crew had achieved over the last several months.
“In partnership with the Pryce Centre for Culture and Arts, earlier in the year we had four of our dancers travel to the United States of America to perform at the 30th Annual International Association of Blacks in Dance conference: Legacies – Past, Present and Future”, said Ms. Eden.
“This year we have really stepped-up the creative side of things and we were really proud to have some of our members perform at the recent NAIDOC celebrations in Cairns. We also have some exciting collaborations coming up with digital story-telling and film making programmes, so watch this space”.
Conscious of the rising rate of self-harm and suicide amongst Indigenous youth, 3MPride knew they had to engage young people to be mindful of mental health risks and to speak-up.
They brokered a partnership with the Arbonne Charitable Foundation that led to the “I’ve Got Stories to Tell” programme, which encourages young people to reflect on what it means to be confident, happy and safe, as well as to help build strategies to prevent mental illness.
The 3MPride group went on write a song 'Sometimes...' and produce the music video clip.
The goal of producing the music video clip was to spark conversations about self care, support and speaking up within friendship circles, family groups and the community as a whole. They believe caring for kids, hearing their stories and supporting their journey is everyone's responsibility.
Every Saturday 3MPride is open and teaching young people all aspects of film and music video production.
Already having a positive affect, one of the participants said of the programme that “it has showed me that I can build my confidence by doing things like exercise, being kind to other people and working in a team”.
In order to be viable for more varied, long-term operational funding opportunities and to expand their range of project delivery, it is hoped that 3MPride will become incorporated sometime this year.
3MPride have recently put out a ‘call for members’ to help grow their base and to bring more ideas to develop new and exciting projects for the local community. You can learn more about the work of 3MPride via their official Facebook page.
Jack Wilkie-Jans is a contemporary artist, political commentator and freelance writer from the the Waanyi, Teppathiggi and Tjungundji tribes of North Queensland.