Potholes to Possibilities logo

YACVic Rural’s Youth Sector Conference is back! This year’s theme is ‘Potholes to Possibilities’.

Young people in rural and regional Victoria face unique barriers to accessing relevant and adequate services and being heard by decisionmakers, but we know that local support and  leadership can change this.

Our conference is your opportunity to explore evidence-based solutions to contemporary issues in our work with young people. You’ll get to boost your youth participation skills, reaffirm your strengths and passion, and tap into an amazing regional peer network.

Meet our speakers →

Conference FAQs →

Focus areas

We will deep-dive into the following areas and how they’re currently evolving:

  • Youth participation
  • Disasters and climate change
  • Affirmative consent and healthy relationships
  • Using technology in youth work
  • Youth mental health

The format will be a mix of keynote speakers, expert panels, breakout discussions and displays with a whole-hearted strengths focus. We’ll hear from young people, academics, government, seasoned professionals, and fabulous newbies.


If you have access needs, please let us know by Friday 3 November to allow us enough time to book in the appropriate supports.

We have an exclusive accommodation discount code for attendees available upon conference ticket purchase.

Member prices
  • General admission - full conference (three days): $200
  • General admission - one day: $100
  • Online (limited availability; one-way livestream) - $75

Book now

Non-member prices
  • General admission - full conference (three days): $300
  • General admission - one day: $150
  • Online (limited availability; one-way livestream): $100

Book now

Become a YACVic Member and save

Stand united with young people as we strive for justice and champion young people’s rights. We support young people and workers who support young people with advocacy, training and resources to help you make a difference.

If you’re not a YACVic member yet, you’ll save money by becoming a member and purchasing a member-priced ticket.

Become a member


Applications for scholarships are now open! These are to assist with ticket, accommodation and travel expenses for those travelling over 250km to reach Bendigo. 

Apply now

Potholes to progress will take place on the Land of the Dja Dja Wurrung people. We pay our respects to Elders past and present. Bunjil’s lore states that those who walk on this land must care for the Country and waterways as well as for the children and young people. This always was and always will be Aboriginal land.

Contact us

For further information about the conference, please contact Derm Ryan (he/him), YACVic Rural Manager at DRyan@YACVic.org.au or Akshay Kumar (he/him), YACVic Finance and Facilities Officer at AKumar@YACVic.org.au.

For media enquiries, contact YACVic Media & Communications Coordinator Katia Pellicciotta (she/her) on 0498 730 553 or at KPellicciotta@YACVic.org.au.  

Our sponsors

Potholes to Possibilities is made possible thanks to the generous support of our sponsors.

Principal sponsors

VicHealth and Victorian Government logos

Sessional sponsors - Disaster and climate adaption stream

Future Proof and Australian Government logos

Download accessible/printable program


  • 11:30 AM

    Registration and networking lunch

    Register your attendance. We will also be taking registrations for the optional conference dinner on day 2 (limited places).

  • 12:30 PM

    Welcome to Country

  • 12:45 PM

    Opening remarks

    Minister for Youth The Hon Natalie Suleyman MP and Speaker of the Legislative Assembly and Member for Bendigo West The Hon Maree Edwards MP will open the conference.

  • 1 PM

    Plenary: The future of rural youth work

    An exciting panel about current and future youth issues for the rural youth sector.


    • Anne Murphy (she/her) — Glenelg and Southern Grampians LLEN

    • Jemal Ahmet (he/him) — CMY

    • Tom Saxton (he/him) — YACVic Young Peer Facilitator

    • Professor Tim Corney (he/him) — Victoria University

    • Tasha Ritchie (she/her) - Titjimbat (Teachabout Inc.)

  • 2:15 PM

    Concurrent sessions: Youth Participation — Our most powerful change agent

    Introduction by Sam Champion (he/him) - Participation and Development Manager, YACVic.

  • Stream 1

    Panel: Pathways from participation

    Youth participation is normally used in the context of specific programs or projects, but we know that young people develop many transferrable skills along the way. This session explores the life, study and work pathways your youth participation ‘alumni’ could pursue, and how to help them get there.


    • Alannah Sander (she/her) and Laura Crozier (she/her) — Youth Live4Life

    • Steph Hartshorn and Ella Jacobsen — YouThrive Victoria

    • Chloe Rheinberger (she/her) - UN Youth

    • Jun Bin Lee (he/him) - Disability Pride Starts Here, YDAS

    • Moderator: Sienna Gladstone (she/her) - Young Peer Facilitator, YACVic

  • Stream 2

    Panel: Tools of the trade

    Successful models of meaningful youth participation share their best tips for success.


    • Jo Lindsey (she/her) - Junction Youth Services

    • Alex Ross (she/her) - Full Impact Squad, Tomorrow Today Foundation Benalla

    • Tom Saxton (he/him) - Young Peer Facilitator, YACVic

    • Finnley Sterling (they/them) - Participation & Development Administrative Officer and Code of Ethics Project Officer, YACVic

    • Riya Rajesh (she/her) - Young Peer Facilitator and YERP & Code Upgrades Project Officer, YACVic 

    • Moderator - Sam Champion (he/him) - Participation and Development Manager, YACVic

  • 3:30 PM

    Discussion breakouts

    Percolating on youth participation, we want to help you transfer what you learned into practice. We’ll discuss: what are your key takeaways? What are the most important next steps that could make them happen in your region?

    Speakers TBA.

  • 4 PM

    YACVic AGM

    Join us for the announcement of our new Board members, the release of the 2022-23 YACVic Annual Report and an outstanding rural youth panel on climate change activism.

    The Speaker of the Legislative Assembly and Member for Bendigo West The Hon Maree Edwards MP will make opening remarks.

    Followed by networking canapes from 5:30 PM.

  • 8:30 AM


    Register your attendance. We will also be taking registrations for the optional conference dinner this evening (limited places).

  • 9 AM

    Keynote & panel: Technology for good

    It’s important to be aware of safety and ethical risks when using technology as a youth worker, but that doesn’t mean we should be scared off.

    Technology is here to stay in the lives of young people; this expert panel walks us through how we can make the most of the advantages without compromising safety.

    Keynote: Lucy Thomas OAM (they/she), CEO and co-founder of Project Rockit


    • Julia Rovery (she/her), CMY Gippsland

    • Cassandra Rowe (she/her), 5CT Program Coordinator, Indigital

    • Rebecca Elmes (she/her), Community Planning Officer, Moyne Shire Council

    • Dr Kelsey Deane (she/her), Measurement, Evaluation and Learning Advisor, BRAVE Foundation

    • Moderator: Tom Saxton, politics and computer science student; youth advocate

  • 10 AM

    Concurrent sessions

  • Stream 1

    Research speed dating

    Talk to young researchers working on prickly issues for young people and the youth sector in rural Victoria.

    Speed daters:

    • Dr Charlotte McPherson (she/her), Youth Research Collective, University of Melbourne

    • Dr Melyssa Fuqua (she/her), Faculty of Education, University of Melbourne

    • Meg Lee (she/her), Wimmera youth worker

  • Stream 2

    Consult: The future of rural youth health

    The recently launched VicHealth Strategy 2023 – 2033 outlines a 10-year plan to improve the health and wellbeing of all Victorians. The VicHealth team will offer insights into Future Reset, the VicHealth funded program for rural and regional young people and hear your ideas and feedback on the opportunities presented by the new VicHealth strategy.


    • Liss Gabb (she/her) — Manager, Social Wellbeing and Mental Health team

    • Geskeva Komba (she/her) — Lead, Social Wellbeing and Mental Health team

  • Stream 3

    Consult: National Centre of Excellence in Young People and Disasters

    YACVic and Victoria University (VU) are establishing a National Centre of Excellence in Young People and Disasters. It will be a collaborative hub for research, expertise, and programs for young people to be actively involved in decision-making and management of disasters such as bushfires or floods.

    We want to hear from you about what the Centre should look like and how you want to be involved.


    • Derm Ryan (he/him) — Head of YACVic Rural, acting co-CEO

  • 11:15

    Morning tea

  • 11:45 AM

    Workshop: Connecting to Purpose — Reach Foundation

    This interactive workshop will help you align back to the ‘why’ we do the work we do. Be guided through an experience which cuts to the core of your purpose, and makes you feel energised and proud.


    • Cam Quashie (he/him)

    • Katie Sproule (she/her)

  • 12:45 PM


  • 1:45 PM

    Keynote and panel: Creative approaches to youth mental health promotion

    It’s going to take all kinds of creative thinking to respond to the prevalence of mental health concerns amongst young people. This panel session will explore programs that are innovative and responsive to young people’s strengths and needs.

    Keynote: Stephen Carbone (he/him), CEO and founder of Prevention United


    • Cam Quashie (he/him) and Katie Sproule (she/her) — REACH Foundation

    • Sophie Rak (she/her) and Ash Hem (they/them) — Orygen Youth Mental Health

    • Moderator - Lyn Eales (she/her), School and Community Programs Manager, Brophy FYS

    More speakers TBA

  • 3:15 PM

    Afternoon tea

  • 3:30 PM

    Concurrent sessions: Mental health

  • Stream 1

    Panel: Natural solutions

    A growing body of evidence shows that nature-based activities have a positive impact on young people’s mental health. Hear how different youth programs use nature to enhance wellbeing, tackle mental health issues, and prevent mental ill-health.


    • Lauren Barker (she/her), Nature Scripts headspace

    • Sönke Tremper (he/him), Giz a Break

    • Carmela Diaz Arteche (she/her), Ocean Mind

    • Moderator: Sienna Gladstone (she/her) - Young Peer Facilitator, YACVic

  • Stream 2

    Panel: Access matters

    This session is all about how to break down barriers to help young people access supports for wellbeing and mental health. We hear from various youth workers about how they’ve approached this from different perspectives to create relevant and effective resources and pathways, including to advocacy.


    • Liss Gabb (she/her) and Geskeva Komba (she/her) — VicHealth Social Wellbeing & Connection

    • Lucy Demant (she/her) and Aaron Batchelor (he/him) —  Alcohol & Drug Foundation (ADF)

    • Thu Nguyen (she/her), Centre for Multicultural Youth (CMY)

    • Heather Ryan (she/they), Human Rights Advocacy Manager, Youth Disability Advocacy Service (YDAS)

    • Moderator: Finnley Sterling (they/them) - Participation & Development Administrative Officer and Code of Ethics Project Officer, YACVic

  • 4:30 PM

    Discussion breakouts

    Lets reflect on how you can transfer the day’s learnings into practice. We’ll discuss: what are your key takeaways? What are the most important next steps that could make them happen in your region?

  • 5 PM

    Closing remarks

  • 7 - 9 PM

    Evening event

    Location: FOS Kitchen & Bar. 2-4 Howard Place, Bendigo.
    Optional group dinner; this is not included in the conference ticket price and participation is at each attendee’s own expense. There will be a set menu for a subsidised price of $25/head.

  • 8:30 AM


  • 9 AM

    Concurrent streams

  • Stream 1

    The changing landscape of consent in Victoria — BASSFORD ROOM 1

    This stream includes a panel, discussions and presentations. We take a guided tour of different projects supporting young people to understand affirmative consent. 

    Panel: The changing landscape of Consent in Victoria

    With the affirmative consent law reforms earlier this year, Victoria is undergoing a seismic shift in how we approach sexual consent, particularly in cases of sexual assault and harassment. Beyond the legal implications, this reform also sparks essential ethical discussions about healthy communication, autonomy and respect in intimate relationships. This panel will dispel common myths around affirmative consent, how technology and social media can shape young people's consent dynamics, and the need for comprehensive education.


    • Lisa Nguyen (she/her) — Legal Education Coordinator, Youthlaw

    • Fran Caccamo (she/her) — Consent Labs

    • Jaeme Opie (she/her) — Sexual Assault Services Victoria (SASVic)

    Keynote and workshop: Consent Matters

    Experienced community educator Natalie Cavallaro (she/her) — Sexual Health Victoria will guide session participants through how to provide young people with primary prevention information, support and resources for respectful, equitable and consensual sex and relationships.

    Poster presentations

    See the incredible work being delivered across Victoria to support young people to understand affirmative consent, and building their knowledge and skills to navigate healthy relationships. These presentations will highlight best practice principles of youth participation and codesign.

    • Yeah, Nah — YACVic Rural: affirmative consent education workshops by and for young people in the Mallee.

    • Power to Kids — The MacKillop Institute: strengthening prevention and responses to sexual exploitation, harmful sexual behaviours and dating violence for young people in residential care.

    • Is This OK?? — The Man Cave: digital program delivered on streaming platform Twitch to equip boys to realise their full potential, build healthy relationships and take positive action in their communities.

    • Young People as Agents of Change — CASA CV: inclusive, youth-led location-specific education program in the Macedon Ranges for young people of diverse genders and sexualities.

  • Stream 2

    Disaster and climate adaption — THE CONSERVATORY

    This stream includes keynotes and a panel with a variety of experts. We look at how to support young people to harness their skills, find work or volunteer pathways in emergency services, and contribute to better climate policies.

    Keynote: Climate Superpowers

    Everyone has unique skills and talents (superpowers!) to help face the challenges of climate change. But let's be honest: it can be hard to know where to start. Learn about how young people from the University of Melbourne created this resource to help you work out what you can contribute to tackling climate change, and learn your own superpowers!


    • Phoebe Quinn (she/her) — Research Fellow, University of Melbourne School of Population and Global Health

    • April Harrison (she/her) — veterinary student, young person with lived disaster experience

    Keynote: Girls on Fire

    Girls on Fire is a sustainable movement of empowered women, diverse allies and resilient communities in fire and emergency services. Learn about how they empower young people to find future work and volunteer pathways in firefighting and disaster management, build confidence and community connection, and increase visibility of Indigenous cultures' rich contributions to Australian bushfire and disaster management.


    • Bronnie Mackintosh (she/her) — Station Officer, Fire and Rescue NSW

    Keynote: Country Fire Authority (CFA)

    Learn about the CFA's Cadet Pilot Project, a series of targeted activities for 16 to 17-year-olds across Victoria developed to address retention rates and engagement in this age group. CFA will share how this program addresses challenges in youth engagement in emergency services, and how it feeds into wider reform of CFA's youth opportunities and future plans.


    • Goldie Pergl (she/her) — Country Fire Authority (CFA)

    • Jennifer Clement (she/her) — Country Fire Authority (CFA)

    Panel: Rural Futures Ignite: Empowering youth for climate resilience and equity

    This dynamic panel will explore the vital nexus between gender equity, food security and climate resilience. We will learn about innovative policies, evidence-based research, and strategies to empower rural young people. Together, lets forge pathways that amplify young people's voices.


    • Julianne Tice (she/her) — VCOSS

    • Amanda Lamont (she/her) — Australasian Women in Emergencies Network (AWE)

    • Meg Last (she/her) — VicHealth Food Systems, Bendigo Food Hub

    • Kelsey Macdonald (he/him) — ADAPT Youth Climate Network

  • 12:30 PM

    Lunch then close