Manning Valley Neighbourhood Services (MVNS) 
resourcing and empowering the Manning Valley community

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My Place My Space

The My Place My Space program works with people through circus sports and arts to improve skills, self esteem and leadership.

Funding & Support

Funding initially provided through:

  • The Sidney Myer Foundation
  • NSW Department Corrective Services
  • With further funds received from Optus, Matana Foundation and Department of Sport and Recreation.

Further funding is being sought to continue to provide opportunities for young people to develop leaderships skills.


Report from My Place My Space Coordinator

Initially funding received from the Department of Corrective Services and the Sidney Myer Foundation allowed the establishment of a weekly circus skills group that started in July 2009 and continued until September 2010 (this also included learning to make stilts and movie making/editing resulting in their own DVD). This process ended with a performance and presentation with participant’s families.

Further funding through Department of Sport and Recreation, OPTUS and the Matana Foundation allowed for the development of the MPMS Train the Trainer program (October 2010 to April 2011), expanding on and developing the capacity of those young people to develop leadership skills. All of the participants were invited to join with Laura and Tamika taking up the challenge. This process involved mentoring young circus participants as “trainee trainers” with intensive training on leadership and group work skills offered in teaching blocks at Cool Kids ASC for on the job mentoring.

Some further funding allowed for a re-launch of the program inviting new participants to engage in Train the Trainer. This started with an ‘intensive’ weekend with Mark Douglass. After some further mentoring  and follow up training sessions after the intensive, we ran a 5 week block of workshops at Taree West Primary School in term 3 2011. The main evaluative point at the end of this process was for trainers to have the opportunity to work on their own skill development.

At this point we developed a 10 minute evaluation and summary DVD to wrap up what had been developed, achieved, completed etc to this point. (This was shown as last year’s AGM and was posted to all funding bodies).

In this last year, MPMS Train the Trainer program continued to implement opportunities for the young circus trainers to further develop their teaching skills. There are 4 trainee trainers that have persisted with the program and 2 others that have floated in and out (ie not a “practical placement” or received any mentoring in teaching skills).

Teaching experiences at the end of 2011 were:

  • Trainee Trainers were involved in running the Circus tent at the Akoostik festival in October 2011
  • In Term 4 we ran 2 x 5 week workshop blocks, one for Cool Kids ASC in Taree and one at Wingham Brush Primary School with 30 kids and 4 trainers (as we had 2 Wingham based trainers and 2 Taree based trainers)

Workshop blocks involved planning the circus workshops together each week, implementing programs and evaluating ready for planning the next week. This process allows for individual trainers to also set individual goals for themselves throughout the process and to gain teamwork experience.

To respond to the need that trainers identified which was to keep working on their own circus skills, 2012 has focussed upon skill development and exposure and contact with the circus industry. This has included a visit to Port Macquarie to see Circus OZ in September 2011. Other experiences were:

  • 2 day intensive in manipulation skills with Jeremy Ainsley, a circus artist from Sydney
  • Attendance at Catapult 2012. Catapult is a youth circus and physical theatre festival in Bathurst. Many youth circus participants from around Australia come together to attend workshops, socialise, develop and watch amazing circus shows and to meet lots and lots of people from the circus industry. At this year’s Catapult there was an additional element called “Circus Mob” which 2 of the Taree trainers were involved with. This involved attending specific sessions for aboriginal young people which included getting together to train and discuss issues from their community. One of the highlights of this was to spend some time with Kirk Page (an Aboriginal physical theatre artist) to talk over some stories and his journey so far.
  • Catapult was an incredible opportunity for the MPMS attendees. It was exposure to another world and an opportunity to celebrate their differences and similarities with the youth circus industry.

After returning from Catapult, we did an in depth evaluation about each person’s involvement in MPMS Train the Trainer program and I believe every trainer holds a very positive sense of themselves and confidence in their role as a trainer. They are very clear about what their specific goals are in terms of teaching skills and what skills they would like to develop personally.

The next skill intensive focused on tumbling, as tumbling and floor work is often very popular at workshops and is often asked for by participants. These skills require a very committed trainer and a strict safety strategy before you are able to teach these skills. So in July 2012 we had a 2 day intensive with Rick Everett on tumbling skills. This was fantastic, and Rick was exceptional in breaking all skill work down into training tips and practises. This was the start of a process, with a long term goal of having a regular tumbling class in the area with these trainers involved as assistant trainers. At this stage we need a follow up weekend with Rick, but this would be impractical unless the group was meeting regularly to train.

As the program doesn’t have any funding at present I have been attempting to keep contact going in the best way possible with the trainers. A term of Active After School Sports at The Manning Gardens Primary School this term will see the 2 Taree trainers involved. I am hoping this may lead to further training for these trainers in the future with the Department of Sport and Recreation, which in turn may provide future employment for these two trainers.

I will continue to offer opportunities to these trainee circus trainers and hopefully there will be some funding in the future to build upon the investment Manning Valley Neighbourhood Services and the young trainers have made to the community and to themselves.

Jill Watkins