Stupid life is on track

GRIPP workers Katharina Verscharen, Julia Ottobre, James Dillon and Sylvia Marov. 137383 Picture: ROB CAREW


SPEAKING to ‘David’ today it’s hard to imagine this bubbly, hopeful young man was involved with a bad crowd and did a lot of “stupid things” only 12 months ago.
More than stupid, they were serious things such as car thefts, ram raids and vicious assaults and muggings.
The Doveton teenager used to smoke ‘weed’ and drink two bottles of ‘Jack’ and ‘Jimmy’ each day with his associates.
He had no desire for work nor study. No plans.
He said he turned bad after being hit at high school. The blow from behind fractured his skull and he lost his way for two years.
Last year, he faced his Judgement Day in Dandenong Childrens’ Court – up to 25 years’ incarceration for drunkenly punching a young victim in the face and holding a knife to their throat – all for a bottle of milk.
David counts himself lucky that by the time he fronted court, a GRIPP worker had already got him down the right track.
The worker got to known him, wrote him a reference that convinced the magistrate that David deserved a second chance.
At their first meeting, the youth worker and David bonded over a kick of footy.
For the first time David could open up about his problems in a safe, positive fashion. They talked about why David got angry and frustrated.
“The way they talk to you is different. He did some plans with me and set a few goals.
“We’d draw a circle and try to work out what’s the best option around it, and how to resolve it without resorting to violence.”
He was set up with a counsellor, he could call in anytime and talk about his serious and bottled-up victimhood from child abuse, he said.
Wholesome free and low-cost activities were organised such as bowling, karate and tennis – stuff that a lot of families couldn’t otherwise afford, he said.
It changed him. He’s “shattered” that the GRIPP program is winding up, listing all the many young males it has helped over the past seven years.
David continues working “as hard as I can” as an apprentice. He wants to build a career.
He doesn’t need to look far to see where he could have ended up.
He knows a few mates who are locked-up; these are people he no longer associates with.
“They don’t even care if they go back,” he said.
“They need to grow up.
“You’ve got to keep it positive and think for the future.”