Activators is a very empowering program and allows young people to feel more confident in themselves and their ability to create change in the world

–Willow - Bairnsdale

After facing the double-whammy of bushfire and COVID-19, young people in bushfire-affected communities have delivered projects that build resilience and improve animal welfare through Youth Affairs Council Victoria (YACVic)’s Rural Young Activators Program.

This year’s Young Activators program was supported by RSPCA Victoria and empowered young people in bushfire-affected communities to develop projects that support animal welfare and build community resilience.

Find out more about Activators

Summary of the Activators and their projects:

  • Chloe developed her project “Furry Friends First Aid”, which is providing young people confidence to care for animals and the community, through providing bushfire-affected communities with wildlife first-aid kits and training.
  • Willow has demonstrated that animals do support bushfire-affected communities’ mental health with the promotion of ethical adoption of pet animals in her local area through “The Paws Project”.
  • Jen lives on a small hobby farm outside of Wangaratta. Through Activators, she developed the “We Are Wang” website which is an interactive, online community of young people who share photos, recommendations, and the best places to hang out.
  • Chris is the only young person living in Combienbar, a community of 12 people. Her project shows the benefit of creating swales to create sustainable, abundant environments that benefit both humans and animals. 
  • Eleven students from Orbost Secondary College researched, designed and delivered a number of a nesting boxes to suit local species of animals impacted by the fires in their local area.

These projects were possible with support from RSPCA Victoria, ecologists and field experts from Zoos Victoria, Treetec and the Department of Environment, Water, Land and Planning.

"I think Activators is a very empowering program and allows young people to feel more confident in themselves and their ability to create change in the world," said Willow, a participant in the program.

"It is definitely worth your time, you will get so much out of it. You build skills and knowledge while also making your own project from the ground up. You also get to meet other friendly young people that are passionate about creating change and inspire you to strive for the best. Overall it's a great program to be a part of."

“I really care about my community and the environment. We’ve created bird boxes and new habitats for local wildlife who were affected by the bushfires,” says Billy, Orbost Secondary College student who took part in the Activators program.

“My house burnt down which was really sad, but it’s great to be able to do something and give back and take back what was taken.”

Katherine Ellis, CEO of YACVic, says that the program has brought great benefits to young people from bushfire-affected communities, whose ordeal was then exacerbated by a generation-defining global pandemic.

“Despite their lives being severely impacted by the fires and then COVID-19, our Activators have developed unique, creative and innovative projects with the support of training and mentoring,” said Ms Ellis.

Dr Liz Walker, CEO of RSPCA Victoria, said she is proud that RSPCA Victoria can play such an important role in a program that empowers young animal lovers to directly improve animal welfare in their local area, and in turn support the wellbeing of the people living in the community.

“Animal wellbeing and human wellbeing are inextricably linked – this project has demonstrated further proof of this. Bushfires can devastate communities and it will take a long time to rebuild from the most recent bushfire season. Animals are a critical part of that healing process.” said Dr Walker.

YACVic will continue to deliver the Rural Activators Project in the future. To find out more about the 2020-21 YACVic Young Activators Program, go to yacvic.org.au/activators.

Media Contacts: 

Thomas Feng, YACVic Media and Communications Manager, 0431 285 275, or tfeng@yacvic.org.au for interviews with YACVic.

Camilla Speirs, RSPCA Victoria Senior Media Advisor, and Brittany Kleinig RSPCA Victoria Communications Officer via 0425 787 243 or media@rspcavic.org.au for interviews with RSPCA Victoria.

About Youth Affairs Council Victoria

Youth Affairs Council Victoria (YACVic) is the peak body and leading advocate for young people aged 12–25 and youth workers in Victoria. Our vision is that young people are active, visible and valued in their communities.

About RSPCA Victoria

RSPCA Victoria is a not-for-profit charity established in 1871. Their vision is to end cruelty to all animals. Across the state they provide community services including animal sheltersclinicseducation programs, and an Inspectorate that is authorised to investigate and prosecute cases of animal cruelty. They operate six animal welfare shelters that provide refuge and strive to give more than 20,000 animals each year a second chance.