29 June 2023

Workshops to empower South Coast's leaders of tomorrow

| Claire Sams
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Two men filming

Mr Shields and Mr Mundey filming their documentary, Crunch Time: Saving Tura’s Biodiversity. Photo: Sam Hsiao.

The time after high school is when many young Australians take some time to figure out what they want to do with their lives.

But Jacob Shields, Freya Occleshaw and Juliet Fontaine from the Bega Valley, already know their passion: finding solutions to big problems.

Together, the three have founded Crunchtime Australia, a community association dedicated to supporting young people.

Spokesperson Mr Shields said the trio met after graduating from high school.

“We all came from different high schools on the Far South Coast.

“It was only after we graduated that we coincidentally met through community work we were doing,” he said.

“We discovered that we had shared interest in this intertwined issue of the environment and housing affordability that we’re facing, and our diverse skillset combined to form a bit of a dream team.”

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The group have organised a series of ‘Youth Empowerment Sessions’ as part of a two-week tour across the South Coast of New South Wales.

The workshops will be held in Dalmeny, Moruya and Tuross, Broulee, Manyana, Callala and Culburra across dates in July.

“We’re visiting six communities that are affected by this crisis,” he said.

“We’ve been in touch with lots of young people and youth organisations in the Eurobodalla, in the Shoalhaven, who have been extremely supportive and generous.

“They’ve helped us in organising, in finding the spaces beforehand and getting to know the communities.

Each will involve a screening of Crunch Time: Saving Tura’s Biodiversity, which Mr Shields collaborated on with fellow Tura Beach resident Jordan Mundey.

The documentary focuses on a proposed subdivision at Mirador on the South Coast that the filmmakers argue would pose an environmental risk.

“That is a 33-year-old development application rising from the dead to threaten to destroy a sensitive patch of ecology.

“It is home to endangered species and is a crucial wildlife corridor,” Mr Shields said.

“They’re looking to clear forest and in its place would be erected a housing development, which would not be affordable for struggling families, for the homeless, for young people or anyone else who is struggling in this housing crisis.”

A peer-to-peer discussion will follow the showing, focusing on leadership skills, civic knowledge and self-confidence.

“In those sessions, we’ll also be giving young people a bit of a crash course on how government works – that’s something that’s often neglected in schools,” Mr Shields said.

“That’s something I was never explicitly taught about and had to learn myself.

“With these sessions, we want to show young people that by being yourself and by being confident in your voice and ideas, you can effect enormous change and feel extremely empowered,” he said.

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Mr Shields said it was important that young people were not left out of discussions about their future.

“Right from the beginning, we knew that there was a huge gap in this space of youth empowerment, of supporting and inspiring young people to get involved in social issues,” he said.

“That’s what we want to achieve, broadly, and so we thought the best way to tackle that was to set up a dedicated organisation.”

A goal of the Youth Empowerment Sessions – and Crunchtime Australia as an organisation – is to equip young Australians with the skills and knowledge they need to push for change, he said.

“With the positive response to our documentary and the participation of South Coast young people at forums, youth events and protests, we’ve seen the power that’s in our community.

“But we really want to take it up a level and try to achieve some practical goals in terms of tackling this crisis,” Mr Shields said.

Further information on Crunchtime Australia, including dates and times for the Youth Empowerment Sessions, can be found on the Crunchtime Australia website.

There is no need to book for the sessions.

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