THIS week’s royal visit to Elizabeth shines a global spotlight on one South Australia’s most successful alternative education programs for young people.
During their brief visit to Adelaide, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge will spend about an hour meeting staff and students at the Northern Sound System – a modern facility providing training for rappers, producers, video artists and others.
Fresh from their time at Uluru, the Duke and Duchess will fly to RAAF base Edinburgh and then drive directly to the Northern Sound System complex where they will chat with graffiti artists, join a rap session and watch skateboarders in action.
The music school, which has been running for four years, provides a career path for young people who have struggled with mainstream education.
An initiative of the City of Playford, Northern Sound System offers facilities such as sound studios and performance spaces. It has a permanent staff of four and a maximum enrolment of 60 students.
Northern Sound System (from left): Nick O'Connor, Mark Reilly, Stephanie Michels and Lane Orr.
Project officer Nick O’Connor says the music program has already provided a career path for many young people and has been studied by many other communities around Australia, and the world.
“This is a truly innovative program,” he says. “That’s not a sales pitch. It really is. Not many people dump this much cash on a community music program.”
“They understand that words are a vital part of a rapper’s arsenal. So the more words they know the better.” Shane Peterer, Hip Hop instructor
For its students the Northern Sound System not only provides an excellent and supportive learning environment, but also brings them into contact with working musicians, rappers and other performers.
Shane Peterer (aka Motion) has been running a hip hop school at the Elizabeth centre for the past four years with his partner Delta and is amazed at the transformation he sees in young people who have previously shunned formal education.
“Suddenly they’re asking if they can use a dictionary and a thesaurus,” he says. “They understand that words are a vital part of a rapper’s arsenal. So the more words they know the better.”
Given the high rate of youth employment in the northern suburbs the City of Playford has developed a range of initiatives aimed at re-engaging young people from troubled backgrounds.
City of Playford Mayor, Glenn Docherty.
Playford mayor Glenn Docherty, 30, is delighted with the work being done at the Northern Sound System and thrilled that the community program is being given the royal seal of approval.
“We know that the Duke and Duchess are very keen on youth development and want to see young people across the Commonwealth flourish,” he says.
“From our point of view the Northern Sound System is one of the most unique music spaces anywhere in Australia. It’s really a great thing for our young people and fantastic to see the good work they are doing – from recording music to writing music and getting into the music industry.”
As someone who has deep roots in the Elizabeth community – his Scottish grandfather migrated to South Australia in the 1960s – Docherty is passionate about urban renewal and helping the city’s young people enter the knowledge economy.
“There are plenty of challenges, but also opportunities,” he says. “It’s really about how we continue to engage the local community and transition from a general 1950s manufacturing base and into the modern, global economy.”
Windsor Building, Elizabeth Civic Centre.
Social Media: use royal visit hashtags on 23.4.14 – #RoyalTourAus