REDgum rung in Ladder to a better life for homeless youth

The work we’re doing with REDgum for the young people gives them the opportunity to…examine where they’re coming from in the world, what their context is within it and how they want to be seen by the world. So I think it’s a really important piece of work.

Mark Bolton, CEO Ladder.

The New Zealand government showed strength of conviction, layers of integrity and confidence in its national identity when it passed legislation opening the way for same sex marriage this month. Barack Obama showed similar strength of character – and personal conviction – when he chided politicians for failing to pass legislation to restrict access to high-powered firearms in the US. And Adam Scott gave all kudos for his win in the US Masters golf tournament to his Australian sporting predecessors and support crew.

REDgum will note rather than dwell on these examples of personal and team brand in action, preferring to offer our own commitments to community. For the last three years we’ve provided pro-bono coaching in personal brand and communication to young people affected by homelessness, through the AFL and AFL Players Association affiliated charity Ladder. Ladder works with young people aged 16-25 who’ve been affected by the devastating impact of homelessness, and believes that every young person deserves to aspire to a better future.

REDgum and Ladder – which was conceived by an impressive trio of formal AFL players, and which is headed by former Essendon champ Mark Bolton – have now created a formal partnership. As Mark says, Following your dreams takes a lot of courage, particularly if you’re a young person who’s stepping out of extreme disadvantage and our relationship with Ladder has developed to give these young people access to the personal brand and communications coaching and workshops we provide to our corporate clients.

Over a rolling two-year program, we’re offering workshops on Relationships and Rapport Building; Self Awareness; Define your ‘brand’; Communicating your personal brand – how others experience you; Confidence & Presenting skills; and Self Esteem & Teams to Ladder’s Melbourne enrollees and staff, at no charge. We’ve completed the first couple already and with the support of AFL Media gave participants the opportunity to be filmed delivering their own, personal ‘statements to self’ in the magnificent studio facilities at AFL House in Docklands. This was a joyful, challenging and cathartic experience for Ladder staff, the young people and REDgum, and those individual video productions will be referred to repeatedly by the young people as they come to assess and assert their identities and aspirations. We’re very grateful to Cam, Mark, Leanne, Jette, Matt and Brydie from Ladder, all those at AFL Media who gave so generously of their time and expertise, and to the inspiring and courageous young people who stepped out of their comfort zones to be TV stars for a day and challenged themselves to set definite communication goals.

Ladder believes that every young person deserves to aspire to a better future, and it’s a belief shared by REDgum. With the backing of the AFL and the players themselves (every AFL player donates around $25 per game from their match payments), Ladder’s commitment is to provide long term solutions that assist young people to break the cycle of homelessness for themselves. AFL players and professional sportswomen become mentors for Ladder program participants, which is integral to its success. Ladder:

  • provides accommodation and ensures the young people can move on to live independently
  • reconnects them with their community
  • secures their health and wellbeing
  • provides them with pathways to education, employment and training

Former Essendon Bombers captain and REDgum client Matthew Lloyd is a Ladder ambassador, as is Cats star Steve Johnson, and as ‘Stevie J’ says: Many of these young people just need a little support and encouragement to build their confidence and get things back on track.

On any given night in Australia 105,000 people are homeless. That’s more than the capacity of the MCG! Nearly half of these people are under the age of 25. A new study from the University of NSW into the cost of homelessness in Australia found that homelessness can cost the community up to $5.5 million per person in police, juvenile justice, welfare, housing, health and legal aid services.

18 year old Sarah (not her real name) joined Ladder in 2011. Since then, her life has changed more than she ever dared hope as she explains in her own words:

My life was a bit crap before coming to Ladder. I was begging people for food which was not much fun and I was either sleeping on the street or at friends’ places.

When I started at Ladder I didn’t know what to expect. I really thought it was just going to be a house. I thought I would just have my own place and people would leave me alone, but it was much more than that!

I started going to school again, attended weekly living skills sessions and was appointed chairperson of the Ladder Leadership Group. I was also matched with a mentor from the Adelaide Thunderbirds netball team which was great. I got involved in boxing and fitness sessions as well as cooking sessions. I quit smoking too. My Mentor is amazing and I have started playing netball again as she has encouraged me to get back into it. The relationships I’ve made have been incredible. 

The friends I have made with all the staff and people who live at Ladder have helped me a lot. I’ve met so many great people who will be friends for life. 

In a year from now I hope to have a house that I can call my own and I want to hopefully be doing an apprenticeship as an auto electrician. My dream life is to live in a really nice house with a pool and a spa out the back, plus a couple of really nice cars in the driveway. I’d own my own auto electrical business and play netball for Australia too!!

REDgum Communications is proud to be a Ladder partner, helping disadvantaged young people to build self-confidence and create positive futures for themselves. Integrity is important, and the actions of Obama, New Zealand and Aussie golfer Adam Scott this month have confirmed with resonance that goodwill and good fortune need to be selflessly shared.

Please view the first of our REDgum (short) video interview series, with Ladder CEO Mark Bolton. Mark shares his insights on personal brand, leadership brand and the benefits of REDgum’s partnership with Ladder.


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James Freemantle

Company founder James Freemantle has worked internationally in communications and training for over two decades, helping people to experience dramatic improvement in their abilities to express, influence and inspire. Professional sportspeople, entertainers and executives rely on him to enhance their abilities in presentation techniques, personal branding and media training.

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