Goulburn Mulwaree’s Youth Council is bringing a new generation of ideas and representation to the forefront, ensuring the region’s young people are heard in Australia’s first inland city.
Changing stereotypes, youth leadership and volunteering are at the heart of the Youth Council’s mission. For Youth Council Deputy Mayor Charlotte Hargan, showcasing just what youth can do is one way to change negative perceptions.
A role model and leader at just 15 years, Charlotte also sits on the YMCA NSW Youth Parliament’s Mental Health Committee. Members are currently preparing a Bill to bring before the NSW Parliament.
“We are generating ideas for the Bill that include better educating teachers on mental health through mental health first aid training, so problems can be picked up earlier at school; and compulsory annual mental health checks for students with the school counsellor,” Charlotte said.
“There’s a shortage of mental health services in rural and regional areas and teachers being trained in mental health first aid may help.”
In Goulburn, the aim is to integrate the Youth Council as a representative voice for young people in civic affairs. The council will be holding a membership drive in the coming months and is actively encouraging young people to attend meetings.
The Youth Council regularly submits ideas and feedback to the Goulburn Mulwaree Council’s strategies and projects. Plans for the future, including the Growing & Sustaining Goulburn Mulwaree – Your Future, Your Say program which focuses on the region’s growth, sustainability and enhancement, are particularly encouraging for young people.
“The new Performing Arts Centre is also a great initiative. We need a venue to hold music festivals which give home-grown talent a stage that is central and, ideally, in the CBD. We have strong talent emerging from the Goulburn Conservatorium and the Lieder Theatre and events are one way to showcase this talent and change the negative stereotypes,” Charlotte said.
For Charlotte, who is also President of Goulburn High School’s Student Representative Council and Chair of its White Ribbon Committee, the value of participation, volunteering and making a difference motivates her involvement in the Youth Council.
“I want to give back and make a difference. Leadership is not always about being out front either; sometimes it’s about driving from behind. Young people need to get their voice out into the community otherwise they become apathetic, think they can’t make a difference and give up,” Charlotte said.
“Equally the community has to show that it’s listening to its young people.”
A youth hub is high on the wish list of the Youth Council. A dedicated youth space is already on the agenda according to long-time youth mentor, Goulburn Mulwaree Councillor and former Mayor, Carol James.
“The council has recently taken a five-year lease on a building in the main street with a view to establishing a community centre. There will be a youth space within that centre and young people will be asked what their needs are for this space. We are also in the process of hiring a new youth worker,” Carol said.
Plans are also afoot to increase the youth council’s input into Goulburn Mulwaree Council with regular reporting to the full council of its monthly meetings.
“The youth council includes representatives from different backgrounds – from the local high schools, through to those working and studying at university. It’s important for the Youth Council to be involved [in civic affairs]. I want them to have a voice,” Cr James said.
Cr James has been mentoring youth throughout her involvement in Local Government, and the Youth Council for the past decade.
“Progress over the years is being made to make sure young people are being heard,” she said.
“It is getting better and our young people are gaining more respect within the community. In June, the youth council will be reporting to the Goulburn Mulwaree Council on their achievements over the past year and on what’s coming up in the future. I’d also like a youth council representative on the interview panel for our new youth worker.”
For Charlotte, the Goulburn region gets plenty of ticks. Sporting facilities are a strength, however, there is a need for more youth events and that’s something the Youth Council will be working on in the coming year.
“We also need ways to put forward our young role models and recognise them as a community,” Charlotte said.
Goulburn Mulwaree’s Youth Council was established in 2008 by Cr James. Young people aged from 12-24 years are eligible to join. Youth Council meetings are held at the Goulburn Mulwaree Council Chambers on the last Friday of every month from 5:30 pm – 7:30 pm.
*This article first appeared on RiotACT