Geographical isolation is an issue Australia, with its vast territories, sees often. Located off the coast of Queensland in the Gulf of Carpentaria, the 1200 inhabitants of Mornington Island face the issues that affect many Australians in remote communities: finding full time work, building literacy and overcoming language barriers.

Mornington Island is unique in that around 42 percent of residents are under 19 years old. During the school holidays, there’s often little for kids to do. But a program from Mission Australia, The Tree of Life, is giving them a sense of purpose.

“We really want to help the young people to develop confidence for their future,” explained Mission Australia CEO, Catherine Yeomans.  “We’ve been working with the community on Mornington Island for a number of years now, but it’s an exciting new initiative we’re working on with the Coca-Cola Australia Foundation.”

Running during the September holidays, the project will see 60 young people participate in a series of workshops designed to help strengthen their relationships with their own history, culture and significant people in their lives. Catherine believes participating in The Tree of Life will lead to stronger school attendance, improved communication skills, and provide the confidence for children to be leaders in their school community.

The program encourages young people to share their own very personal experiences in an attempt to build resilience against the challenges of life. “The program really enables the young people to talk about their own experience,” says Catherine. “They get to talk about their roots, their skills and knowledge and their hopes for themselves and their community. They talk about the storms that affect their lives, and how they can protect themselves and one another.”

Ultimately, Catherine wants The Tree of Life to provide some hope for the young people of Mornington Island: “We really want the young people to have a stronger belief in what they’re capable of achieving in their life.”