Fairfield High School were visited by six people who understand crime and how it often develops from a young age.
David Saliba formed Youth Pathways Network as a program to tackle youth unemployment in Western Sydney, and subsequently the unlawful behaviour that unemployment can harbour.
Mr Saliba said the first step in lowering crime-rates and the issue of unemployment within the region is to open the discussion with young people who may be standing in the face of adversity.
“We host school on-site sessions covering a variety of topics, including but not limited to, career insights, tertiary study, leadership, teamwork, CV drafting, job interviews, volunteering, and communication,” he said.
The panel who visited Fairifield High were made up of representatives from police, corrective services, the legal profession and a former drug dealer turned youth mentor, who all have a broad knowledge in all facets of crime and grew up in Western Sydney, experiencing first-hand the challenges young people face in our local area.
Mr Saliba said most young people don’t know the realities of crime.
“They watch TV shows, see criminals with a lot of money, and get this false perception that crime is cool,” he said.
“For some other kids, they fall into the trap of being influenced by others to commit crimes due to their personal circumstances.”
The Forum aims to discourage young people from the glamorised perception of crime by showing them the adverse consequences of criminal activity.
“One of our main messages was that anyone can turn their life around and succeed through an honest hardworking job,” Mr Saliba said.
“All they have to do is ask for help — Tony Hoang is proof of that message.”
Mr Saliba said the forums will continue because he wants young people to realise that crime is not the way to go, and these forums will help encourage them to chose a different path.
“Young people are not the future, they are the now,” he said.
“Through the panellists sharing their experiences, we believe the forum will create a platform to inspire students to become young role models achieving positive outcomes for Western Sydney.”
Mr Saliba that he and the other panellists are able to speak from their own childhood, and how they grew up in south west Sydney and stared away from crime.
“Growing up in Cabramatta in the 1990s, I saw drug and gang crime destroy families and lives,” he said.
“Some of the people I have grown up with in the local area stole to support their drug addictions, joined gangs and criminal groups to fit in and tragically passed away on the roads due to reckless driving and alcohol/drug consumption.”
He said sporting coaches, teachers, community volunteers and other role models along with family and friends inspired him to chase dreams and stay away from crime.
“This was important because I honestly thought kids like me don’t get to choose the life we want, it gets chosen for us.
“I could not have been more wrong. With the support of others, I lived life on my terms. My work at YPN is all about paying Western Sydney back by supporting our kids to also chase their dreams and the Forum is indicative of that purpose.”
The YPN will be continuing their forums into 2017 with a full day of panel discussions planned for surrounding schools.
pictured: Jason Donnelly (barrister), Zarina Munguia (youth liaison), Applee Kannengiesser (1st class correctional officer), Rose Khalizadeh (criminal lawyer), David Saliba (youth pathways), and Tony Hoang (former drug addict and gang member) all say “No” to crime at a forum at Fairfield High School. Photo: Tim Clapin