Youth plan to make community change

PLANNING CHANGE: Molly Carolan, Mikayla Kerr and Alinta Nickson. Picture: JIM ALDERSEY

PLANNING CHANGE: Molly Carolan, Mikayla Kerr and Alinta Nickson. Picture: JIM ALDERSEY

Young people from across the region met in Bendigo this week to plan for change in their local communities.

About 40 students aged 15 to 20 were chosen to take part in the state government's Change It Up program.

The workshop run by the Foundation for Young Australians aims to empower young people to take action on social issues that are important to them.

Issues closest to students' hearts this week included environmental sustainability, refugee policy, teenage pregnancy and sexual diversity.

Rather than just discuss ideas, participants were challenged to make a plan for how they could educate their community.

One group pitched a plan for how to create better understanding between youth and the elderly. They called their project, "Rekindle: young hearts rekindling old souls". They said the quality of life of the elderly in nursing homes could be greatly enhanced by interaction with young people. Their plan included an "adopt a gran" concept where young people could be matched with an older person to become pen pals. They said this would help address the problem of loneliness in old age. 

"Old people really aren't that scary. We want to break down the barrier," said one student. 

Another group said they wanted to show a film at their school to raise awareness about the plight of refugees seeking asylum in Australia.

"These people are coming to our country. They have an international right to seek asylum," said a student. 

A group from Maryborough said they wanted to educate school-aged students about teenage pregnancy.

They said their town had the highest rate of teenage pregnancy in the state and they were keen to reverse the statistic.

The students hope to invite teenage mothers to speak at their school.

Students presented their plans in front of community leaders, local politicians and peers.

In a speech to students, Goldfields Local Learning & Employment Network's Chris Coughlan said older adults found it easy to "become a bit cynical and negative" and that ideas from young people could "invigorate us" to re-think challenges in the community. 

"There's the young with the old, and we can work together," Mr Coughlan said.

Liberal member for Northern Victoria Amanda Millar also attended.

"I never underestimate that young people have very powerful ideas," Ms Millar said.

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