CW: discussion of disasters


Makenzie Wilson is from Bairnsdale, a town in East Gippsland where thinking about disasters is an everyday part of life.

Growing up she experienced firsthand what it’s like to prepare for them and evacuate from them.

With these lived experiences, Makenzie has a passion for helping her local community. She channels that passion into her current role at Gippsland East Local Learning and Employment Network (GELLEN), where she’s a peer worker with the ‘Future Proof: Young People, Disaster Recovery and (Re)building Communities’ project.

“Qualified young people that feel more useful and able to contribute appropriately are vital to the sustainability and growth of a community."

–Makenzie Wilson

Future Proof pathways

Funded by the Australian Government Black Summer Bushfire Recovery grant following the 2019-20 bushfires, Future Proof brings together 14 partner organisations from across eastern Victoria to deliver bushfire recovery and disaster resilience that is youth-led and youth-minded.

A key feature of the project is the opportunity for free emergency management training and qualification pathways for young people.

For Makenzie, that’s meant making sure young people in her local area can access courses that make sense for them.

Localised pathways

One of the pathways that young people showed interest in after the bushfires was emergency training around water rescue, which was run locally in Mallacoota.

“Learning water rescue and how to operate boats during bushfires became more important for the community to be able to access the outside world.

We need it to deliver food and resources, but now we’ll also be able to transport people on water when transporting them by land isn’t safe,” Makenzie said.


She says regional young people have also been supported for other everyday activities, like being able to transport themselves to nearby towns for work and traineeships, through the funding of L2P (Learner to P-plate) programs.

Makenzie’s pathway

Makenzie didn’t want to miss out on the opportunity to get upskilled herself, so she’s also completing one of the qualifications pathways - a Certificate IV in Community Services.

“I’m doing this course because Community Services is something I enjoy doing because I like helping people, and I also get to enjoy seeing see other young people participate in courses that help them become more resilient.

Being qualified in Community Services means that I’ll also have a range of different skills that I can take with me to different roles in the future,” Makenzie said.

Makenzie’s vision

Makenzie’s vision for rural and regional young people is that they’ll be seen as leaders through their jobs, but also through their ways of living.

“I see young people contributing to all aspects of disaster management and being the next leaders of their respective communities.

I see us advocating for climate change, and taking care of and rebuilding our communities through sustainable living," Makenzie said.

By also being able to learn communication skills, interpersonal skills, leadership skills, and importantly, self-confidence, Makenzie feels that young people will be well-positioned to move their communities forward before, during, and after disasters.

Future Proof is a YACVic Rural initiative funded by the Australian Government Black Summer Bushfire Recovery grant. For all qualifications pathways enquires, contact your local LLEN or Future Proof partner.