Back to Bush Project 

The Back to Bush project is a cultural re-engagement program for Aboriginal youth aged between 9 and 14 who have offended or who are at risk of offending or in out of home care. The program engages and supports young Aboriginal males through culture and mentoring.

Experience has shown many of these young boys are not having their cultural needs met due mostly to inadequate cultural care plans, in the case of boys in out of home care, and due to breakdown in communication between elders and the young.


“With the passing of elders, Aboriginal culture is vanishing at an alarming rate,” Director of First Hands, Peter Cooley says.  “Knowledge, skills and experience accumulated over thousands of years is disappearing due to a breakdown in communication between generations. Aboriginal youth in turn, are becoming dispossessed from their cultural identity and confused about their position in society, leading to an array of social problems including one of the highest rates of suicide in the world for Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander youth - who are also 19 times more likely to be detained in a juvenile facility."


The Back to Bush Project provides an opportunity for the target group to participate in a program that re-connects with culture and heritage and links them with role models building resilience while strengthening their social and emotional wellbeing. The program also aims to increase social interaction, build confidence and coping strategies for managing their lives and barriers they face.


Initially the program targets these young Aboriginal males residing in urban communities as they are faced with different social issues and have limitations for accessing culture and heritage for healing purposes.


The participants will learn new strategies for managing personal issues through working alongside Aboriginal elders and qualified Aboriginal mentors.  These cultural activities will be delivered locally at the Royal National Park (Sutherland Shire) and the Booderee National Park (Jervis Bay).


The cultural healing element of the Back to Bush program provides an opportunity for participants to interact with their peers and most importantly Aboriginal elders.



The project objectives


  • Reconnect young Aboriginal males to traditional Aboriginal Culture and Heritage

  • Provide Aboriginal young people a better understanding of Aboriginal culture and their heritage as a form of healing.

  • Provide opportunities for young Aboriginal males to engage with positive Aboriginal role models and elders

  • Provide avenues for talking about social and emotional wellbeing issues in a safe and culturally appropriate environment.