Mental health is a serious issue of concern in rural and regional areas for young people. We aren't getting the support we need, when we need it. If services were set up to be portable, everyone would have access to the services that are desperately needed on a regular basis.
I am from a dairy farm in a small county town in Northern Victoria called Cohuna.
Growing up in rural Victoria is something I'm immensely thankful for.
You get to know the leaders of your community on a personal level, and you can directly influence activities within your community. You can be close to nature, and thoroughly understand the concept of paddock to plate.
I am passionate about youth engagement, and how young people can build stronger initiatives across other areas such as education, the environment, health, mental health and sport.
When I sat on the Gannawarra Shire Youth Council, we conducted research with local young people for the Children and Youth Strategy.
This research was also used to inform a project of building a Youth Centre in Kerang, originally aimed at preventing boredom in youth.
But our research found that transport to and from the centre, as well as cross-town rivalries, were significant issues that would prevent young people from engaging with the facility.
The distance from large cities poses a massive disadvantage for many young people.
We have to travel to gain access to things that many young people in the city take for granted.
Having outreach programs based in major centres is a step in the right direction but many young people still live a long way away from large towns.
That's why I joined the inaugural YACVic Activators program which allowed me to continue to develop my idea of a Roving Youth Centre.
Boredom can strike at any second and this can leave young people in the community unengaged and unmotivated to be involved in the community, and eventually become isolating for rural and regional young people.
Mental health is a serious issue of concern in rural and regional areas for young people.
We aren't getting the support we need, when we need it.
If services were set up to be portable, everyone would have access to the services that are desperately needed on a regular basis.
I was also part of developing the 'Mywarra' website, a digital space created by youth for youth to be a virtual notice board for young people in our area. However, I still felt there was the need to have some form of a physical space for young people to meet, so they could get face to face support rather than just online.
I continue to push for the development of a mobile youth space within our area, so young people can be connected with services and the wider community.
In country areas, sport is a big tradition, and young people who don't play sport are viewed in many respects as social outcasts.
There needs to be other creative-based outlets for young people so that they can establish a sense of belonging within the community.
I believe more opportunities which meaningfully involve young people in the decision-making and development of our towns is one such way.
Young people feel included and empowered when they are listened to, and they are more likely to connect meaningfully if given the environment to respectfully share their own experiences. Our ideas can build stronger, more resilient and healthier rural and regional communities long-term.
I am now studying Science and Global Studies at Monash University and living on campus.
Although I don't spend as much time in Cohuna anymore, I still feel an obligation to the young people in that area to advocate that they get the services they need and deserve.
Country Victoria is a great place to live, but it can always be improved.
Having better access to services is just one thing that could be done to make country Victoria an even better place for young people to live.
Stacey Barbagallo is a 20-year-old youth advocate and student.
She was part of the YACVic Activators program, which helps develop and deliver an advocacy project on an issue important to young people from rural and regional areas.
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