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The streets take to the stage

The Street University is a pioneering youth movement that encourages young people to be the best, most creative versions of themselves. Ahead of their Sydney Opera House debut, we find out more about this incredible program.

Adrian Mouhajer

“No community is the same….this will therefore call for daring experimentation.” - Ted Noff

The Ted Noff Foundation took its namesake's motto to heart when it founded The Street University (TSU) with its revolving schedule of programs that shift in line with the community they cater to. From K-pop to parkour, TSU’s programs are adaptable and experimental, but they all aim to support young people in becoming the best version of themselves and gaining valuable skills – "For the street, by the street", reads the TSU mantra.

I had the privilege of speaking to Lachlan Dean, the Programs Manager at TSU, to hear about his experience working at TSU. He is friendly and approachable, and I can tell why young people in need of guidance would be drawn in by his warm demeanour. But Lachlan thinks there’s far more to TSU than just guidance counselling.

“We’re not a youth service. We’re a health service.”

“Whenever there’s an issue, we all come together as a community to solve the issue.”

Research has shown that participating in the creative arts such as visual art, music, dance, or performance can have a positive impact on health and wellbeing. TSU’s website remarks on how more than half the people who remained in the service reduced their drug dependence, experienced improved quality of life and experienced reduced psychological distress.

Lachlan has been working in this field for more than thirteen years now. He explains that when a young person is involved with crime or has issues with drug dependence, they’re generally hard to reach through traditional approaches. For Lachlan, that’s when a “hook” comes in. You’ll find an easier time reaching people by providing other things they’re attracted to; it can be as simple as a clean bathroom, or as complex as a recording studio.

Lachlan stresses that to be able to run something like TSU successfully, there needs to be a degree of predictability, assigned responsibility and accountability. If you involve young clients in what’s happening in the day-to-day, there’s a higher chance of getting them to really commit to what they’re doing within the service. An example of this is TSU’s Youth Council. They invite a variety of young people, some who may have been accessing the service for a long time and some who are just starting out, and they consult with them on the programs they’re looking to set up for next term as well as any potential problems within the group.

“Whenever there’s an issue, we all come together as a community to solve the issue.”


“We’re not a youth service. We’re a health service.” Street University provides avenues for young people to explore the creative arts as a means of improving their health and wellbeing.

TSU has an upcoming show at the Sydney Opera House where they’ll be able to showcase a diverse range of young talent. A few of the names are quite well-known including the internationally acclaimed DJ Seb One.

When asked about the other prestigious performers that have walked through their doors, like Mount Druit rap group ONEFOUR, Lachlan remarks that although the commercial success they’ve achieved is truly admirable, he finds a similar level of satisfaction in being able to nurture kids into being able to express themselves.

“If you’ve seen a young person attend workshops and then you see them perform for the first time. The look of excitement and the happiness in their faces. Sharing in that moment of creation. It’s fantastic to witness.”

The point of the programs that TSU runs are not to create great performers but to give young people the chance to have more control of their lives by the end of it.


Street University programs are aimed at giving people more control back over their lives.

And that’s where Scott aka ‘James Rage’ comes in.

Scott was unhappily working as a labourer prior to attending TSU. He was referred by a friend and then contacted by Chris Kamikaze, an industry heavyweight and previously signed artist that also happened to help run workshops at TSU.

“It was a really fun environment where I could do things that I couldn’t even really do in front of friends.”

“Through hard work and perseverance, especially during COVID lockdowns when classes shifted online, Scott continued to attend the programs at TSU, learning essential skills to succeed as an independent artist.”

It’s interesting how much more we can achieve when we find a supportive community, even in the places we least expect it. For me, that community was MMA. When I first began training, I never expected to feel comfortable amongst my cohort, especially my head coach who was loud and abrasive at the time. But I quickly found out that he was the definition of tough love and that the environment he fostered within our gym was one of kinship, mutual respect and trust. If it wasn't for my teammates and for him, I would have never made it into the cage for my first fight last year. 

Scott found a similar community within TSU, namely through the work of Chris and Randy who took the stress out of exploring music by creating a safe space for him to experiment. Through hard work and perseverance, especially during COVID lockdowns when classes shifted online, Scott continued to attend the programs at TSU, learning essential skills to succeed as an independent artist.

He has now started his own production company Sharp Music Productions and performs under the alias, James Rage. He’s successfully procured future gigs and is eager to collaborate with a few artists on his radar including Chris, his former mentor.

“For a while, I almost gave up on music, because I had bills and was struggling but now the money is coming in because I was committed.”

At only twenty-three, Scott is humble about how far he’s come from when he first started out in music, but he has made great strides. He was truly able to take more control of his life through TSU but he also wants to pay credit to his family. His parents, Dean and Nicole, have supported him since he was a child by nurturing his love for music and he also wants to acknowledge the support his grandparents, Morney and Nanny, have given him as well.

“Being armed with knowledge in those kinds of discussions is so important.”

For young artists that want to pursue music, there’s a lot to learn and Scott, who now works as a facilitator at TSU, highly recommends the Passion to Pro program. 

“It’s helped me navigate some precarious situations with record labels. Being armed with knowledge in those kinds of discussions is so important.”

Scott is also performing at the Street University Experience show at the Opera House and is eager to showcase his skills. Also performing at the Opera House is Legacy, who Lachlan is confident will be the next big thing in Australia, and DMC, who do “some crazy cool shit”.


Find out more about Scott on InstagramFacebook and Soundcloud.

Adrian Mouhajer was a recipient of the Highly Commended award as part of Antidote's Mentoring Program for Emerging Writers from Diverse Backgrounds

The Street University Experience is on in the Sydney Opera House Studio on Friday 22 April and Saturday 23 April.

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