4 July 2023

Yass Valley youth invited to have their say - about everything

| Sally Hopman
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Young woman

Emily Jones has set up On The Cusp, a program designed for young people from the Yass Valley to have their say about the community in which they live. Photo: Supplied.

Rural areas like the Yass Valley might be established, but unless young people come forward to offer their ideas – and the community embraces change, the future can look dim.

Emily Jones, 27, is on a mission to help young Yass folk have their say, establishing On The Cusp, a not-for-profit and non-partisan community organisation which is supported by the Vincent Fairfax Family Foundation through a Backing The Future grant. Such grants are allocated for “early-stage ideas” in rural and regional NSW.

“I spent seven years living in Canberra, so I know the Yass Valley pretty well,” she said. “The young people in the Yass Valley are really connected to the community and have such great ideas for how they can make Yass a more vibrant place to live. They have so much to offer, particularly at a time when the Yass Valley is undergoing so much change, with more and more people moving there from the city.”

Now, more than ever, Ms Jones said, the community needed young people to take the lead so they could shape change and make sure Yass continued to be a good place for young people to live.

“Young people have such great energy and enthusiasm – why wouldn’t we want to tap into that to make Yass as vibrant as it can be?” she said.

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But the problem, she said, was that there were few opportunities in the region for young people to have their voices heard.

The Yass Valley Youth Council, she said, did great work, “but beyond that, there are very few opportunities or programs in Yass Valley for young people to help shape the future of their local area”.

She said young people in Yass could feel disconnected from their elected representatives, with most of the young people she spoke to unaware of who their representatives were.

“They also don’t feel listened to by their representatives or understand what the benefits there could be in engaging with their local council, for instance.

“I believe we can turn this around and equip young people with the leadership skills and networks they need to have their voices heard.

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“The young people in Yass that we’ve spoken to have pretty significant issues they want addressed, such as social isolation, more skill-building and mentoring programs, more safe spaces for young people, action on climate change and more community events.”

Ms Jones has launched a survey offering young people a say in what issues matter most to them.

She said it was also a great opportunity for young people to flag their ideas for making the community a better place to live and work.

“We’ll use these survey results to shape our leadership program that we’ll offer to young people from around Yass, so we can make sure the program is equipping them to tackle the issues they care about the most. The survey will also help the young people we’re working with decide which issues they should tackle locally,” she said.

Yass locals under 35 are invited to take part in the survey. This includes residents of Yass, Bowning, Bywong, Sutton, Murrumbateman, Gundaroo, Wallaroo and Wee Jasper, Bookham, Good Hope, Jeir Mullion and Manton.

“I know that so many young people in Yass Valley have ideas for how to make their community a better place to work and live, but it can be hard to go about it on your own,” she said.

“This is where On the Cusp comes in. I want to work with young people in Yass Valley to help them make their town a better place to live and work.”

The On The Cusp survey is available here.

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