Engaging with horses can have a calming and positive effect on people.
And when you are an Aboriginal girl at risk of entering the criminal justice system, the effect can be life changing.
Near Moruya, on the NSW South Coast, the Youth Equine Assisted Therapy project is helping at risk girls to build self-esteem, leadership and communication skills through interaction with horses.
Known as ‘Equine Spirit Healing’, the project is a collaboration between the Far South Coast Area Command Police, Katungul Aboriginal Corporation Regional Health and Community Services and ‘horse whisperer’ Adrian Feirer.
Adrian has been working with young people for approximately ten years and owns the property west of Moruya, where the program runs.
A former Aboriginal prison officer, now rescues unwanted horses and transforms their lives. He then uses the wisdom of horsemanship principles and his gentle communication skills to provide early intervention and activities designed to prevent offending behaviour in young people.
Participants learn the language of the horses, and build positive relationships based on trust. They gain skills in basic horsemanship, including how to care for the horses, with the program designed to develop skills for anger management and goal achievement.
The activities help raise self-esteem, increase patience levels and enhance the girls’ communication skills. Moreover, the growth in confidence amongst the participants is palpable. School attendance and behaviour has improved, with some participants who were not attending school at all now attending every day.
The program has partnered with AIME, who have been providing mentoring support at the project site and at the students’ schools, while referrals to other services are also available as required.
The Youth Equine Assisted Therapy project is funded by the Australian Government through the Indigenous Advancement Strategy’s Safety and Wellbeing Stream.