JOB and education opportunities are high among young people's priorities for Bendigo's future, along with mental health services and activities to engage the city's youth.
More than 80 Year 10 - 11 students from secondary schools throughout Greater Bendigo today workshopped and presented visions for 2030.
Their feedback will help shape the Greater Bendigo Economic Development Strategy.
Addressing inequality is expected to be at the heart of the strategy, which is under development.
A discussion paper, released in July, highlighted the perils of failing to do so.
"Greater Bendigo will continue to experience increasing inequality and disadvantage across our city if we continue to adopt a 'business-as-usual' model for economic development," it said.
Representatives from all but a few of the 10 student groups said a wider variety of jobs were needed in the municipality.
One group pointed out that Bendigo not only needed to have jobs to attract residents, but job security to ensure people stayed in the community.
Students also spoke of a need for more educational opportunities, whether it meant expanding the range of courses offered by existing providers or taking a different approach to what was available.
Suggestions spanned from reviewing what was being taught in schools and its relevance to the needs and interests of students, to helping people give TAFE greater consideration as a first preference for further study.
"TAFE is overlooked too much. It's always used as a second option not as a first option towards a career," one student said.
Some students raised the need to move to Melbourne to pursue studies in courses not offered in Bendigo as situations they would like to see remedied.
Others said there was scope for secondary schools to work better together to provide young people with options to study subjects not offered at their school, and to forge new networks.
"Not all schools have the same opportunities as other schools," one student said.
A number of the groups thought young people should be learning more about climate change, global heating and the environment during schooling.
They also thought more should be being done by 2030 to address risks to the environment.
The rate of young people completing Year 12 or equivalent was one of the key issues students were asked to consider during the workshop.
Suggestions ranged from making the content more engaging to increasing mental health supports available in schools.
One group said all schools should have counsellors.
"Even one counsellor per school would be a tremendous help," a student said.
A number of groups recommended hubs be established. One suggested a youth hub, incorporating job seeking services, mental health and wellbeing services, help for people struggling at school, and activities.
They raised bullying as a key challenge for young people.
"It happens quite frequently and nothing is really being done about it," one speaker said.
Young people wanted more age-appropriate attractions and events in Bendigo, and more promotion of those initiatives already taking place.
"There are a lot of events that happen that are so under the radar," one student said.
They raised the example of the proposed Bendigo Autumn Festival, which was cancelled due to a low ticket sales.
Young people also wanted activities to be centralised and easy to access, with transportation highlighted as a barrier to young people's participation in community life.
One group suggested the city's public transport system be expanded.
A number of the groups raised public safety concerns, particularly in relation to Hargreaves Mall and the Bendigo CBD.
"Some troubled youth are making people feel less safe on the streets," one speaker said.
One group suggested a cinema and eateries be moved into the mall to bring more positive activity into the area.
The old Gillies building was one of the sites a number of the students said their groups would like to see put to good use.
"We never look at what we already have," they said.
They said the building had the potential to be used for a number of purposes, including addressing homelessness.
"A lot of kids are living in poverty," one group said.
They were also concerned by the number of young people who were living with the effects of substance abuse, whether it was firsthand experience or that of another person in their household.
Students said there should be more services available within the community to help.
Story continues below strategy discussion paper
One group summarised its vision for 2030 as such: "inclusive, supportive and energy-efficient".
Importantly, students said they appreciated the opportunity to contribute to plans for the city's future.
One student said opportunities to workshop ideas and present them to community leaders should not be rare.
"It's our future. We would like to make decisions about what's going to happen," they said.
Bendigo mayor Margaret O'Rourke said she was not surprised that mental health, education and training and future jobs were among the students' biggest concerns.
"This is a community-led strategy. The members of the committee recognise the importance of creating a place where people can thrive with a long-term perspective of building more sustainable jobs, whilst improving our health, wellbeing, education and the environment," she said.
Bendigo Education Council Chair Darren McGregor said one of the key messages to come from the workshop for the city's youth was that their voices were important.
"Bendigo wants to hear the voices of young people so stand up and be counted," he said.
The Greater Bendigo Economic Development Strategy is expected to be released in 2020.
Have you signed up to the Bendigo Advertiser's daily newsletter and breaking news emails? You can register below and make sure you are up to date with everything that's happening in central Victoria.