That's the Spirit: Kelly Sinclair - Warren NSW
Kelly Sinclair is the Executive Officer of the Warren Youth Group, established in 2014 with the aim of supporting local youngsters into employment. No stranger to Warren, Kelly says the group – established through the generosity and vision of local philanthropist Tony McAlary – is making a positive contribution not only to the town’s youth but to the community as a whole.
Jen: How long have you been in Warren?
Kelly: I’ve lived here almost three years this time around, but previously I lived here for about five years back in the early 2000s and I also have family here. I came to Warren three years ago when my husband took the offer of a farm job, and then took up the role of Executive Officer for the Warren Youth Group.
I’ve left adult children and my first grandchild behind back on the coast, but otherwise it’s definitely been a happy move back here to Warren.
Jen: Tell me about your role with the Warren Youth Group.
Kelly: My role mainly involves the day-to-day operations. I do all the bookkeeping, sourcing funding, all the events management and administration and I look after the volunteers. At the moment, we are in the process of opening a youth centre and community hub, so that’s taking most of my focus is going there.
Jen: How long has the youth group been established?
Kelly: Since late 2014 so nearly six years.
Jen: How important are your volunteers and what role do they provide to the group?
Kelly: I can’t stress enough how important the volunteers are. We wouldn’t be able to run day-to-day without them. When we go on excursions and things like that we need volunteers with us, otherwise we can’t take as many kids. Once this youth centre is up and running, the volunteers will play an even more important role in keeping those doors open. The youth group doesn’t actually have a home as such at the moment – I’m working from my parents’ sunroom!
When the youth group meets we usually do mainly outdoor activities, and we’ve gone to Dubbo for days out – things like that. We also use the Warren sports complex when we can as well as the swimming pool in summer.
When it’s built, this new youth centre is just going to tie all that in where everything can happen from the one place, which will be amazing.
Kelly Sinclair, Warren NSW
Jen: Hopefully, you’ll be able to go from strength to strength with the activities and events you can run.
Kelly: Correct, yes. We’ve just had a look at starting a new sporting program where two days a week we’ll run sports activities in the afternoon, which will be really good.
Jen: What was the need in Warren that this group has helped to fulfil?
Kelly: It all started out with some disengaged youth hanging around the streets and (Warren Youth Group founder) Tony McAlary took them under his wing and started getting them job ready. The job ready program is one of our main focusses, along with getting the young people skilled to find permanent employment. Eventually we decided we needed to start with kids a little bit younger and try to help them before any problems arise. That’s when we started holding community activities.
Jen: What has been the impact you can see both on the youth and on Warren as a whole?
Kelly: It has been a win-win for both. Breaking unemployment barriers is the big thing. For instance, farmers in the district aren’t having to hire backpackers to do their basic farming jobs. That’s the main thing we do – we contract to farms doing irrigation, stick picking, cotton chipping…any sort of farming work that isn’t too skilled to start with. All the costs we bill to the farmer goes back to the youth who did the work, so we are not-for-profit.
Jen: That must be enormously satisfying for you and Tony, but it also fills a really big need in Warren.
Kelly: It certainly does and the self confidence of the kids is just amazing. I can’t believe the way they grow in front of our eyes. You put them out there to work for a couple of days and just the difference is unbelievable.
Jen: What sort of challenges did you have to overcome to get the youth group up and running?
Kelly: Probably the biggest challenge is the reliability of the participants – getting them used to getting up in the morning and having to go to work and turning up on time. We provide them lunch every day and we find that’s a bit of an incentive. They come and have something to eat and we find they really work as a team – they all have each other’s backs, they’re all supportive of each other which is really great. That all comes into the skill building.
Jen: Has the community been surprised at the longevity of the program when so many programs start out with the best of intentions and then flounder for lack of support or resources?
Kelly: Yes, definitely. Obviously in the past year or so we’ve really struggled with the employment side of things during the drought but we’re expecting to see the work pick up again soon. The community as a whole has been surprised that it’s been as successful as it has and people are quite shocked, but happy, that we are finally building a youth centre. It’s something I think they all knew was needed here but no one else was going to put their hand up and say they’d do it.
We’re not government funded, but we partner with other organisations. So, for instance is another organisation is holding an event, we’ll step up and try to help, and vice versa. We also have the support of the local police, the local school and another youth program here in town – so yes, we have plenty of support. The Warren Shire Council is also on board with us and they help out where they can.
Jen: It sounds like a whole of community enterprise that’s been embraced by all kinds of different groups.
Kelly: It is and I think the main reason for that is that no child is excluded. We work with children aged between 12 and up and it’s for anyone and everyone. It’s not for any specific group or sector.
Jen: Where do you get your funding to stage events?
Kelly: In the very beginning, Tony (McAlary) started the whole thing with a very generous sum of money from his own pocket. We run day-to-day off the interest made from that donation. And then we rely on grants and things like that to hold events – there are various council grants that help us out whenever we hold an event. We’ve also received other grants along the way. We recently received $154,000 through the NSW Government’s Stronger Country Communities Fund to build this youth centre, and that has also enabled us to put on another part time youth officer. We also partner with the local Rotary club – Tony is a Rotarian as well.
Kelly Sinclair with local philantropist, Tony McAlary in Warren NSW.
Jen: Apart from your work with the youth group, what do you like about living in Warren?
Kelly: The community feel of it. People in Warren are very community-minded. I also love the family atmosphere, you could be walking down the street and you bump into someone and you feel like you are part of the town from day one.
Jen: Youth is the future of any community, so how do you see the future of youth for Warren?
Kelly: I think that’s where our group plays a big part. Unless we get these kids upskilled and trained in jobs in the agricultural industry, we’re going to lose a lot of the younger population. Our aim to is to get these kids ready to work on farms and try to keep them here in our community.
Jen: Can you tell me about Tony’s contribution?
Kelly: Tony is so kind-hearted. He’s an amazing man both personally and through business. He will not turn anybody away. I can’t stress enough the kindness that comes from him and the way it flows on to other people within the community. He has a real flair for getting people to give their time or to donate. He’s just amazing. He’s now in his 80s, and he’s not slowing down, and his generosity knows no bounds. The town is very lucky to have him. I don’t know where Warren would be at this point in time without Tony.
NALAG's 'That's the Spirit' hardcover book will feature a selection of excerpts from the stories gathered over the past two years, and will be available in late 2020 through NALAG NSW and this website. If you wish to be notified when the book is available, please click here.