A program helping young people through hip-hop dance, music and art has found a home of its own in Eaglehawk.
Hiphopportunities for Youth has reopened its flagship project Hip-Hop Drop, a free youth space offering young artists resources and mentorship, as well as opportunities to engage in other aspects of hip-hop culture.
The project is supported by peer mentors and qualified youth workers.
Youth worker and founder Mike Flood said Hip-Hop Drop was the first program developed by Hiphopportunities for Youth when the not-for-profit organisation was established in 2009.
But the program has only secured its own venue recently, with a VicTrack community lease that has seen it take over the goods shed at Eaglehawk train station.
“It is in essence your old school-style drop-in youth centre with a hip-hop culture focus and ensuring young people are not passive recipients but actively involved in the delivery and operating of the program,” Mr Flood said.
“I personally have had hip-hop with me since 1986 and it has forged my sense of social justice and directed me to a path of youth and community work.”
Mr Flood said having its own venue meant the program could create an appropriate space for young people, leading to improved outcomes.
“The layout and atmosphere of the venue is critical as we are offering young people social and community connection - young people who are often resistant to take that risk to reach out or push their social boundary for a range of reasons be it anxiety, bullying or feelings of marginalisation,” he said.
The space itself is large enough to accommodate dance, emceeing and production, and art, as well as a basketball area and pool table.
Hiphoppoortunities for Youth is now working on installing a recording studio in the space and there are plans under way for the organisation’s first urban art exhibition to showcase young artists later this year.
Hip-Hop Drop is open to all young people, but it specialises in working with those who are vulnerable.
“Many of our young artist facilitators and volunteers connect and empathise with Hip-Hop Drop participants as they had similar experiences and challenges throughout adolescence,” Mr Flood said.
Steps have been taken to ensure it is a culturally safe space for young Aboriginal people too, with Aboriginal youth worker and 2015 winner of the Ricci Marks Award for Aboriginal youth leadership, Shannon Ryan, involved in the project.
Mr Flood said involvement with Hip-Hop Drop could improve social connection among participants, having flow-on benefits in the way of re-engagement with the community and their peers, and in education and employment.
Young people were also encouraged to take on leadership roles, he said, with some members recently attending the Victorian government’s Youth Summit in Melbourne and undertaking Aboriginal cultural awareness training.
He said Hip-Hop Drop also gave young people a space to co-ordinate and prepare for community events that allowed them to showcase their creativity.
Hip-Hop Drop is currently open from 4pm to 6pm on Wednesdays, and from 4pm to 5.30pm on Fridays for dance.