As the youth peak body, we represent young people and youth practitioners from all corners of Victoria.
Our core agency YACVic Rural is currently funded to work across two key regions, the Southern Mallee and the Great South Coast, to advance the rights of young Victorians in rural and regional communities and support their local youth sectors’ tireless work.
Ahead of November’s state election, we’re researching the key priorities for young people and youth workers across our state.
We know those living in rural and regional communities have different opportunities and face unique challenges to those living in metropolitan Melbourne. That’s why YACVic CEO Leo Fieldgrass, Communications Manager Cat Sinclair, and Digital Communications Officer Laura Donnelly, recently hit the road with the YACVic Rural team to hear directly from young people and youth workers on the ground about what matters to them.
The first stop: Swan Hill
Our trip to Wemba Wemba, Wadi Wadi, Barababaraba and Ladji Ladji Country began with a five-hour train ride from Melbourne (YACVic Rural Development Coordinator – Great South Coast Karen Walsh had a nine-hour car journey!). Leo, Cat and Laura mastered the art of the ‘travelling meeting’ and arrived ready to put their planning to practice.
After sneaking in a quick snap with the world’s biggest Murray Cod, we headed to the local Town Hall for our first sector consultation of the trip.
The workshop was packed to the brim! We were joined by professionals working with young people across a variety of disciplines, from local council to support services, education and emergency services. Our participants shared insightful, honest reflections on what’s working for young people and what needs to improve in the region.
We learned about the impacts of compounding issues, such as limited transport options, low housing affordability and a sparse rental market. It was wonderful to have so many dedicated professionals take part.
We were just as thrilled for the opportunity to hear from young people themselves in the session that followed. Young people told us they often felt isolated, which was amplified by the harsh realities of limited connectivity - internet and phone reception – as well as the lack of transport for those without a driver’s license. However, the young people had many ideas for overcoming these hurdles, which made us even more excited for the change young people will continue to lead in these communities.
We enjoyed the last of the warm country sun before hitting the hay early in preparation for another big day of conversations.
Chasing the river to Robinvale
There is only one way to start the day in the Mallee, according to our YACVic Rural team, and that is breakfast by the Murray River. After refuelling at a riverside cafe, we jumped in the cars for the first official leg of the 'road' part of our road trip, en route to Robinvale.
This small town on the southern bank of the Murray was home to our second sector workshop. We met with a group of local professionals who voiced concerns about the lack of appropriate services for young people in the area, which they felt often has a true population size of more than double the records. We left Robinvale with considered feedback about the distribution of resources among neighbouring regional centres, just one of the many important issues to address in our recommendations for government.
1074 km travelled in 37 hours
We packed up and no sooner were we back in the car and off to Mildura for the next round of community consultations.
Making the case for Mildura
We managed to squeeze in a sample of the delicious local fare at Stefano’s Cafe, and then it was time for Rural Manager Andy Bell’s Youth Participation Masterclass.
Mildura City Hall was buzzing with a diverse group of youth sector professionals keen to hear more about YACVic’s Youth Participation model. The energy continued throughout Leo’s consultation; conversations revealed some key issues impacting young people were centred around family violence and unsafe use of drugs and alcohol, while others noted more attractive options for higher education and employment pathways are needed to keep young people in the region for longer.
74 total young people and youth professionals consulted
The afternoon brought another great session with young people in the way of Andy’s storytelling and advocacy workshop. The session aimed to equip young locals with the skills and confidence to use their own stories and experiences as ways of contributing to positive change. These spaces offer young people opportunities to develop meaning and purpose around their experiences, and they offer us a richer understanding of what it’s like to grow up in rural and regional Victoria.
And before we knew it, the Metro team were airport-bound for the regional flight back to Melbourne.
Reflections from the sky
From 10,000 ft above the Mallee, the true sense of space and extremity of the landscapes was overwhelming. We watched the great Murray river wind through vast inland plains, in awe of its beauty and in awe of the wonderful people we’d connected with. Young people and those that support them in this region may have distance to contend with, but they are strong and committed to building safe communities full of opportunities.
Southern Mallee: we hear you, and we are proud to represent you. Thank you for having us, and we look forward to putting your priorities to government.