Yumna Ahmed is a youth worker who migrated to Gippsland (Gunai Kurnai Land) as a teenager, and is now working to create opportunities for young people in regional Victoria so they don’t have to travel to Melbourne.
She started her career in 2016 at the Centre for Multicultural Youth, before kickstarting the LGBTIQA+ youth program at headspace Morwell, and is now a mental health support worker for Latrobe Community Health Service (LCHS).
Youth work matters to Yumna because she firmly believes that young people are the experts of their stories, and that youth workers play a supportive role in advocating and making young people’s voices and needs heard.
Youth work matters because young people are the future and they are the voices of change. And having a youth worker can help them get there and making sure that they're heard and what they're saying is getting- getting across to whoever it needs to get across to.–Yumna Ahmed, Latrobe Community Health Service
Through her work with LCHS as the Healthy Equal Youth (HEY) worker for LGBTIQA+ young people in the Latrobe Valley, she supported LGBTIQA+ young people to run pride events, including a Pride party.
She credits young people for leading that work, acknowledging that it would have been difficult without a dedicated youth worker and youth space for those young people to come together.
Yumna is also passionate about how youth work creates safe spaces which aid in the prevention of mental illness for young people.
“If a youth worker is in a young person's life, and is hearing what a young person needs, often times - with the choice of a young person, it can lead to them reaching out to other supports, especially mental health support,” says Yumna.
Mental health can often be a difficult and stigmatised topic to talk about, especially in rural and regional communities.
“In order for a young person to feel heard, sometimes they have to explain their situation. And I want young people to have a space that they can be heard without having to justify themselves. We work with the young person so they know that it's not a bad thing to talk about, and are more likely to reach out for support.”
Yumna is tirelessly working so that young people in regional Victoria have the same opportunities as young people in metro Melbourne.
A lot of times young people who live regionally, have to travel far just get the support and services they need.–Yumna Ahmed, Latrobe Community Health Service
Her dream is that young people in regional Victoria who experience additional barriers, such as young people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds and LGBTIQA+ young people will have opportunities to explore their identities, have safe spaces and lead their own change in the community.
“Youth work helps young people thrive by providing them opportunities and spaces that they can be heard and validated.”
Yumna shared her story as part of YACVic's Youth Work Matters campaign. Find out more about the campaign here.