Wandarma Drug and Alcohol Service’s team member Col Langlo.

Wandarma Bega: Working to make lives better, improving health

MAKING A DIFFERENCE: Wandarma Bega Drug and Alcohol Service’s team member Col Langlo talks to Alasdair McDonald from the Bega District news how his new careers is quickly making a difference in the community.  This article first appeared on the Bega District News website on July 18, 2106

What started out as a sense of curiosity has become a career for one local resident.

“I’d like to acknowledge the traditional owners of the land and pay my respects to elders past and present,” Bega’s Col Langlo said in a gesture to the place the former Brewarrina and Nowra resident now calls home.

The Wandarma Drug and Alcohol Service staffer knows too well how easy it is for Indigenous youth on the South Coast to slip through the cracks.

After finishing most of his schooling in Nowra, at the age of 18 he found himself spending a short time inside a correctional centre, where an elder told him to do his best never to see another jail.

“I had to make a lifestyle change,” he said.

Mr Langlo started a traineeship with Wandarma in late in 2015 and has made such an impression he’s quickly become a crucial part of the team.

“I really appreciate where I work and I’m thankful [program manager] Rachel [Wallace] gave me the opportunity to work or I would just be another statistic,” he said.

Mr Langlo looks after referrals, case management and community engagement, support work, helps run men’s groups in Wallaga Lake, Bega and Eden, and works closely with at-risk Narooma High Students, becoming a role model to many young residents.

“I love breaking down that shame barrier,” he said.

“A lot of people don’t like talking about these issues and in the Koori community there really is the shame factor.

“It’s important to build rapport with them, because once I have their trust they are more open to it.”

Mr Langlo said it is important to reinforce in Indigenous students the need to stay away from alcohol.

“If they do touch alcohol then statistics show nine times out of 10 they’ll come into contact with the law,” he said.

Since moving to the Bega Valley five years ago, Mr Langlo has also engaged the community through his love for rugby league with the Bermagui/Cobargo Eels.

He says sports allow people the opportunity to not just exercise but socialise and feel part of a team and wider community.

Initially, finding full-time work in Bega was not easy.

He finished certification in construction, working on the bypass but says he couldn’t “get a foot in”, worked with the Bega Local Land Council on coastal care and different parts of the new South East Regional Hospital construction project.

It was after working on these major construction projects and still being unable to find full-time employment that the Wandarma Bega position triggered his curiosity, and the rest is history.

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