Nambucca Heads High’s Youth Advisory Council is driving social change
In the Nambucca Valley, 7 diverse young people have stepped up to directly impact the youth agenda and amplify the ideas and concerns of youth.
The members of the Youth Advisory Council (YAC) are passionate about making changes in their school, community, and for all young people.
The YAC is one of the key programs in our Opportunity U project that removes barriers holding young people back and opens doors to new experiences and people.
Its establishment is the first of its kind for the school and the YAC developed from the repeated calls from our community that young people need to be the drivers of youth-focused change.
The Council meets once a month during their own time. In earlier sessions, they discussed and brainstormed the things that matter to them, their friends, their peers, and young people in the region.
Now they are in full action mode, exploring ways to address these challenges and create positive outcomes. Soon they are headed to Canberra to visit Parliament House and some of the national policy, law and cultural institutions. They also hope to meet with other youth councils to explore those councils’ priorities and learn how they facilitate change.
Recently, the YAC met with the Office for Regional Youth (ORY) to discuss how to bring the voices of young people from Nambucca Valley into the ORY’s strategic plan.
In addition to monthly council meetings, a range of inspiring guest speakers and subject experts have joined the group to listen – and for collaborative and skill-building discussions.
Guest speakers have included:
Caz Heise from Voices 4 Cowper
Caz Heise ran as an independent candidate for our electorate of Cowper in the 2022 Federal election with priorities of action on climate change, access to healthcare, integrity in politics, and equity and inclusion*.
The group told Caz what they care about and she offered guidance on getting involved in the political process, making their voices heard, and being part of decisions made about our future. It was a fantastic and lively conversation about climate change, the environment, gender inequity, the cost of living and housing, education and teacher shortages, career and training opportunities, and their hopes.
After the meeting, Caz said, “Hopefully we’ve inspired some future politicians so I can pass the baton to one of them in a few years’ time and we can have young people represented in our parliament.”
*We appreciate Caz spending time with the YAC to discuss and engage students on issues affecting them. Becoming U and Uniting NSW.ACT do not endorse any political candidate or party.
Kate Munro, the CEO of Youth Action
Youth Action is a peak body representing young people and youth support services in NSW with a focus on regional young people, First Nations young people, those doing it tough, those with disability, LGBTIQA+ and young people from culturally and linguistically diverse communities, including migrants and refugees.
Kate Munro held an action learning session with the Council around advocacy and how to create the change they wish to see. It was incredibly valuable and included information about the impact of language, for example, changing the words ‘problem’ or ‘issue’ to the word ‘challenge’. Kate also spoke about how the solutions to challenges within a community are often found in the strengths of that community.
Eliza Zanuso and Dean Besley from Bellingen (Bello) Youth Hub
The Bello Youth Hub is a fun, safe and inclusive space for the young people of the Bellingen Shire. The team work collaboratively with young people and their families, high schools, other organisations, and individuals to support young people aged 12-18 and their families who may be at risk or would benefit from extra support. The Hub is also a place to connect with the Bellingen community of all ages and backgrounds.
With Eliza and Dean, the YAC learned about the Bello Youth Hub, its purpose, challenges and wins However, the group also spoke a lot about how young people can facilitate change in their community by connecting with the local council, connecting individually with local councillors, building relationships throughout the community, and framing issues through solutions.
The YAC kicked off 2022 in the best way and there is still loads to come and more incredible guest speakers.
RU OK? Day and Wear It Purple Day
The YAC instigated fundraisers for RU OK? Day that raises awareness of mental health and Wear It Purple Day that shows support for GBTQ+ young people and raises awareness of issues they face. YAC member Aydan shared his story with us and you can watch it here.
Trip to Canberra to explore future pathways
In September, the YAC travelled to Canberra and visited significant policy, law, education, and cultural institutions, plus met other young people facilitating change. Parliament House, the Tent Embassy, the University of Canberra, the Australian Institute of Sport, the High Court of Australia, the Australian War Memorial and Questacon were on the itinerary. You can read more in this article.
Meeting Senator Tim Ayres and presenting to local council
The YAC closed off 2022 by meeting Senator Tim Ayres and presenting to Nambucca Valley Council about the challenges, strengths and needs experienced by young people in the community. The YAC spent the year learning how government works, developing their advocacy skills, and speaking up about the issues that impact young people in the Valley and we hope that those in the community continue to listen and help amplify the voices of young people. Watch Senator Tim Ayres speech on Facebook.
The inaugural YAC has already proved a great success and the group is planning ways to continue its legacy, including mentoring the next group of young people to take their roles in 2023’s Youth Advisory Council.
We can’t wait to see and experience the impact and social change these empowered young community leaders make.
Watch the 2022 YAC Wrap video and check out the gallery below
Author: Simone Atallah
YAC 2022 Gallery