Brother to Another: Empowering First Nations Youth and Families

Developed, governed, and led by First Nations men, Brother to Another envisions a future where First Nations families live strong in culture and identity. 

Developed, governed, and led by First Nations men, Brother to Another envisions a future where First Nations families live strong in culture and identity.

Brother to Another’s focus centres on keeping young people out of the juvenile justice system in the Northern Territory, while guiding and empowering First Nations young people, families, and communities to heal and realise their full potential.  Brother to Another works as a change maker in the community, strategizing for systems redevelopment and change.

First Nations children and adolescents represent over 95% of the youth detention population and 80% of children taken into the child protection system on any given day in the Northern Territory. Despite this severe over-representation of First Nations youth and families, there are few First Nations-led, local services in the Darwin region. Focused on keeping young people out of detention, Brother to Another addresses both the practical needs and the emotional, mental, and social well-being of young men between eight and twenty-four years old, and provides mentoring, counselling, job training and educational re-engagement opportunities.

Brother to Another began as a volunteer program in Don Dale Youth Detention Centre in 2019, with youth-led activities guided by Founder and CEO Jye Cardona. During these sessions, the young people in Don Dale expressed their frustrations that services led by First Nations men were not available to them. Brother to Another was formed to support the young men in Don Dale who were disconnected from their families and culture. Many of these young men also lack access to education and health services and often are experiencing untreated neurodivergence.

Brother to Another On Country day on Kungarakan country.

As part of its focus on strong, genuine relationships, Brother to Another recognises the power of lived experience. Its team of four, all First Nations men, are each able to share their knowledge and experiences of life as First Nations people, their places in society, and their knowledge of the systems which disproportionately affect the First Nations youth and families Brother to Another supports.

Named by the young people in B Block at Don Dale, Brother to Another has developed its suite of programs and services in collaboration with the young people and families it serves. Since its inception, the First Nations young men and families experiencing the Northern Territory youth detention system have shaped Brother to Another into a case management, systems change, and mentoring service that is First Nations led and engages in strength, opportunity, and culture.

Brother to Another On Country Galiwin’ku trip with Yalu Aboriginal Corporation to the men and boys youth camp.

Brother to Another’s services and programs are designed to support the social, emotional, and cultural wellbeing of the young people and families they connect with. Unlike traditional case management, Brother to Another provides on-the-ground mentoring, after-hours engagement, educational classes, cultural immersion days, and a well-being hub that not only youth but families attend. This well-being hub offers a sensory room, art supplies, yarning circles, a gym, native gardening, a shed for work experience, a computer for life admin and employment support, but perhaps most importantly a place for youth to safely connect with their peers, families, and the community.

Brother to Another works to support the entire family unit, strategically positioning young people and families to have improved access to social activities, appointments, healthcare, education, and employment opportunities. It engages with young people and families in various settings in the community – within watch houses and youth detention, at home, and in community and education settings. It aims to identify and address gaps in current service delivery and improve the effectiveness of support in the sector, such as providing additional education support for young people who are ostracised from mainstream schooling due to their involvement with youth detention, and actively engaging with schools and community organisations to create an ecosystem of support.

Supporting, advocating for, and empowering young people and their families to have a voice and decision-making capability is at the forefront of everything Brother to Another does. It is committed to meeting young people and families where they are and providing them with responsive and culturally appropriate support to build life skills, conduct work experience, learn self-regulation skills, engage in positive peer engagement, and reconnect with family.

Brother to Another understands the complex needs and circumstances of First Nations youth and their families who are at risk of or engaged with the Northern Territory juvenile justice system and is increasingly realising its role in creating systems change. Brother to Another is a new TFFF partner and is supported through the Resilience stream, which provides multi-year general operational support funding. The TFFF recognises the value of providing support to strengthen Brother to Another’s operational capacity and aims to empower Brother to Another, and organisations like it, to focus on its strategic objectives and effectively realise its goals.

Cover photo: Brother to Another On Country day. All photos courtesy of Brother to Another.

Brother to Another is supported through the Resilience stream.

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The Tim Fairfax Family Foundation is based in Meanjin (Brisbane).