Pawsome new arrival at YSAS

Kate Withers

There is a fresh face in the fresh space at Youth Support and Advocacy Services’ Morwell headquarters.

YSAS’ Tarwin Street office has been brightened and refurbished thanks to some generous donations from local businesses.

And the organisation’s newest employee, Maggie May the 12-week-old golden retriever pup, has also added her fair share of sunshine to the office.

YSAS manager of community programs and Maggie May’s owner, Mark Tanti, plans to put the gorgeous golden to work as a therapy dog.

Maggie May will be put through her paces with training once she is about eight months old and will then join the YSAS payroll.

“We know that animals can connect, and one of the things I know from being in child protection is that we always have to have alternative ways of doing outreach and trying to connect with kids,” Mr Tanti said.

“I have a retriever, and in my previous job, he was able to reach people and young people in ways that therapists and social workers and youth workers at times can’t.

“Really we wanted to provide an optimum environment for young people who need help, sometimes they voluntarily want help and sometimes it’s others giving them a nudge to get help.”

It’s hoped Maggie May will be able to act as a conduit between the YSAS team, including team leader Julia Lazaris and youth outreach AOD worker Jade Ilieski, and their clients to help facilitate important discussions.

“We’ve got a really good team and we’re really wanting to make a difference in connecting,” Mr Tanti said.

“Most of the people that have been in (these kids’) networks have let them down and we don’t want to let them down.

“We want to be in that situation where we are the agency that they come to and they feel they can get some benefit from.

“We’re not saying Maggie is the only avenue, she’s just one avenue, but I know I’ve got a number of people on the team who are really good with animals and I think it can only benefit the community.”

YSAS provides alcohol and drug counselling for youths aged 12 to 25-year-olds as well as a support and criminal diversion program for young people aged 10 to 17.

“The mission of this work is to provide support for marginalised, at-risk youth,” Mr Tanti said.

“Most of our work is outreach, so it’s about meeting young people where they’re at, and it’s that personal case-by-case support that we provide.

“Our guys are pretty connected to the communities so that people don’t have to go through huge bureaucracy to get to us, we’re accessible.”

The Morwell office has been given a fresh coat of paint and fitted out with new furniture and office equipment thanks to donations from Commonwealth Bank, Bunnings Morwell and Select Office Supplies Office Choice in Warragul.

“We wanted this to be a pleasant space to be in but also we wanted it to be a learning space as well, and a space where we can do some training,” Mr Tanti said.

“We’re really committed to providing not only a service to the young people but also assisting their families, because quite often the families are at their wit’s end about what they do to support their kids.

“We want to try and best facilitate that potential engagement so that they can address the issues that are holding them back and move on and live productive lives.”