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Exploring Youth Justice Through “Saplings” Performance

By February 12, 2024March 7th, 2024No Comments

Members of Sir David Martin Foundation staff and Youth Advisory Group recently had the opportunity to witness a powerful and thought-provoking performance of “Saplings” at the Australian Theatre for Young People in Sydney. This captivating play, written by Yuwaalaraay playwright Hannah Belanszky and directed by Kalkadoon director Abbie-lee Lewis, delves deep into the complexities of the youth justice system.

“Saplings” presents a collection of stories that are both hilarious and heartbreaking, born from workshops with young people in conflict with the law. Through these narratives, the play explores the challenges faced by young individuals as they navigate through the justice system and grapple with adult consequences.
The characters in “Saplings” – Yani, Kai, Shanika, and Lachlan – each have their own hopes, dreams, and struggles. From wanting to go to the Easter Show to seeking a sense of home, their desires are relatable yet complicated by their interactions with the justice system. As the play unfolds, it raises important questions about how young people grow and thrive when faced with systemic barriers and societal expectations.

Set to a rap and hip-hop soundtrack composed by young people in the youth justice system, “Saplings” offers an honest and raw portrayal of the experiences of some of our most vulnerable youth. The performance leaves a lasting impression, challenging audience members to reflect on the injustices inherent in our current system and the urgent need for reform.

After the special youth sector performance of Saplings, Youth Action launched their new youth justice initiative, “A Fair Go for Young People: Invest in young people because the consequences aren’t minor.” This Youth Justice Throughcare campaign aims to improve supports and services for young people in conflict with the law, advocating for early intervention and comprehensive support systems.

As we reflect on our experience at the Australian Theatre for Young People, we are reminded of the transformative power of believing in young people. Sir David Martin Foundation remains steadfast in our vision to give safety, hope and opportunity to vulnerable young people in Australia.