One hundred and seventy kilometres north-west of Brisbane lies the small hamlet of Cherbourg. A place of natural beauty and winding, eucalyptus-lined rivers, it has nonetheless inherited more than its share of social problems.
As Sergeant Michael Eadie tells it, past unrest in the community has seen the local cop station pelted with rocks, cars vandalised and kids running helter-skelter onto the hospital helipad. But the social problems in Cherbourg are something that he and the other police at South Burnett’s Police Citizens Youth Club (PCYC) are determined to help change.
Through running a new arts initiative and photography course at the local PCYC, Cherbourg Through Pure Eyes, Michael is hoping to reach out and engage local youths aged 12 to 25. Vital funding from the Coca-ColaAustralia Foundation has helped the program purchase six quality cameras and hire a professional photographer to train the kids over eight weeks – and all with the end goal of producing a local exhibition and book of their work.
The idea is that the program will not only help local troubled kids recapture their creativity and channel their energies into something productive, but also let them “see themselves and the natural beauty of Cherbourg through a new lens,” said Michael.
A police officer since 1991, Michael has found his work as branch manager of the South Burnett PCYC particularly rewarding. “I love being able to influence young people's lives in a positive way. Instead of them just seeing me as a copper, I wanted to give them the opportunity to try anything that they wanted that would enhance their lives.”
“The kids are now showcasing Cherbourg in its true beauty and not in the negative way that it is constantly portrayed," said Michael. "Through photography, the participants are realising they are lucky to live in such a special place. It’s captured in the beautiful scenery, family time, and also some natural shots of both elders and kids having a great time. It’s showing people that live in Cherbourg the beauty within and to appreciate their community.”
The participants involved have another reason to be extra proud – an exhibition of their resulting work is displayed at Cherbourg’s famous Ration Shed Museum and their photographs are being compiled into a book.
The success of the Cherbourg Through Pure Eyes program has also gained the approval of some of the town’s older residents, according to Michael. “I like it when you see young people change the beliefs of an older person," he said. "It is hard for older people to sometimes see the difference of the times from their childhood to now. But as a policeman, you recognise that kids are still doing the same hell-raising they’ve always done, just in a different era and platform.”
If you’d like to help the kids of Cherbourg and the South Burnett Police Citizens Youth Club, you can visit the PCYC website or call Sergeant Michael Eadie on (07) 4168 1889.