When youth worker and hip-hop music enthusiast Mike Flood arrived in Bendigo in 2006, he discovered a lack of opportunities for the city’s young people to express themselves in a supportive environment.
Drawing on his passions for youth work and hip hop music and culture, Mike founded Hiphopportunites for Youth, a community organisation delivering youth-led workshops in music, dance, art and leadership.
Hiphopportunities has operated out of the Eaglehawk Goods Shed since 2017 under VicTrack’s Community Lease program. Underused buildings are made available at a discounted rate to provide homes for cultural and recreational groups across Victoria. Programs operating from the Goods Shed include ‘Bigger than Hip Hop’ and ‘Big Upz’, which are funded by the Victorian Government’s Engage! and FreeZA youth programs .
“We run on the smell of an oily rag, with a lot of volunteers and grassroots kind of support,” Mike explained.
“We work with young people with really diverse backgrounds, some wouldn’t ordinarily be able to afford to access programs and get the social connections that come with them.
“So, to be able to have the space at the rate that we get it, it means we can actually run our programs and we have a space that we can base ourselves from.”
For people who want some more artistic outlets, it’s nice to be able to provide that for them.
The Hiphopportunities team transformed The Goods Shed into a hip hop music studio with space and equipment for performing and recording music. Most importantly, it is a supportive and collaborative place where everyone from complete beginner to experienced artist is welcome.
Youth facilitator Jai Atkinson, who started with Hiphopportunities as a client before taking on a mentor role, runs one on one or small group workshops for local youth, teaching them how to produce anything to do with hip hop music, from beats and instrumentals to lyrics.
“I provide the opportunities that were provided for me when I came here as a client,” he said.
“My favourite part of working with the participants is just meeting them and hearing their stories; everyone comes from such a diverse background, and they all have their own story they want to share.
“A lot of the time people come here with no pre-existing knowledge about making music, so I love being able to help develop that and watch their passion grow and build something as hobby that can then potentially become a career.
“I think this is a unique space; I can't think of any other spaces regionally that do this. It's important to have areas like this because, before it started, there wasn't really anything for our youth to do besides after school sports. For people who want some more artistic outlets, it’s nice to be able to provide that for them.”
The Hiphopportunities program also promotes leadership development for young people who are seldom afforded opportunities to get involved with their communities.
“Some of these young people will come from Child Protection backgrounds, youth justice backgrounds, and we have a lot of First Nations young people come through the studio,” Mike said.
“Part of what we do here is also about giving those young people a voice, but also an opportunity to get into leadership positions through the programs.
“Young people are coming here to build social skills as well as music skills. First and foremost, you come here because you're passionate about hip hop culture and you're connecting with other people who are also into hip hop culture.
“So, it's different to other youth work programs. It's a different dynamic from the outset that we have working in this space.”