Youth Advisory Group gives young people of Geelong a voice

August 28, 2018

Communities That Care, the not-for-profit organisation focusing on youth health and social problems, has received a $27,000 grant from the Geelong Community Foundation. This grant aids in the establishment of a new Youth Advisory Group (YAG) program with the aim to promote the healthy development of children and young people through long term community planning to prevent health and social problems. Communities That Care Coordinator Louise McDonald told us more about the organisation and their new program.

A catch up with Louise McDonald, Communities That Care Coordinator

Tell us a bit about your organisation and what you do?

Communities That Care (CTC) Ltd. is a not-for-profit organisation based in Melbourne with the objective of implementing, evaluating and disseminating strategies that can increase the delivery of effective prevention services in Australian communities. This unique approach to youth harm prevention offers a feasible method for communities in Australia to access current prevention technologies that can assist their efforts to create healthy environments and prevent child and adolescent health and social problems. CTC Ltd support Communities that Care sites throughout Australia – Geelong is just one site.

The local government areas of Corio, Norlane and Lara was selected in 2014 to participate in the CTC program in Geelong and Barwon Child, Youth & Family (BCYF) as the auspice agency appointed a Project Manager to lead the delivery of the project in partnership with local stakeholders.  It is now in its 4th year.

The partnership, known as the Communities That Care (CTC) Geelong, consists of representatives from BCYF, Leisure Networks, Department of Justice and Regulation, Headspace Geelong, Northern Bay College, Lara Secondary College, Department of Health and Human Services, G21 Health and Wellbeing Pillar, City of Greater Geelong, Geelong Performing Arts Centre, Bethany, Catholic Care, Victoria Police, St Francis Xavier PS, Geelong Football Club, and community representatives.

The CTC Geelong Steering Committee facilitates the way in which the community promotes the healthy development of children and young people. It identifies and addresses priority areas to promote healthy development before young people exhibit health and social problems. It enables the participating community to use its unique data-based profile to craft a comprehensive, long-range work plan to target the reduction of risk factors, promote the healthy development of children and young people and therefore the development of eventual thriving adults and communities.

What impact has the grant made on CTC and on establishing the Youth Advisory Group?

The grant from Geelong Community Foundation has enabled us to recruit a facilitator to convene monthly meetings with the YAG.  We are currently in the process of recruiting young people from both Northern Bay College and Lara Secondary College to be part of the Youth Advisory Group – we hope to have our first meeting before the end of Term 3, 2018.

 What was the driving force for the YAG project?

To ensure the voice of the young people in the community was heard.  This project is called ‘Communities That Care’ and it would not be truly representative of the Community if it didn’t involve young people.  We absolutely could invite young people to join the Steering Committee, but there were too many limitations with this – time taken out of school to attend meetings, a level of intimidation for young people to attend meetings with professional adults.

The idea behind the YAG is that young people can be with like-minded peers of a similar age and feel safe to express their ideas and opinions in a non-threatening environment.

What are the aims of the YAG, what types of decisions and tasks will they be making and overseeing?

To give young people a formal opportunity to contribute to the strategic direction of the CTC Geelong Steering Committee. The YAG will have a cross-section of young people, promoting inclusiveness and celebrating diversity. The YAG will also aim to support the development of leadership, communication, team work and mentoring skills within its members.

Objectives:

  • To build the YAG’s knowledge of CTC and promote within the community.
  • The YAG will identify any gaps in the CTC Youth Survey.
  • The YAG will develop new and innovative strategies to successfully deliver the messaging of CTC into the community ensuring CTC retains its focus in addressing identified risk and protective factors.
  • To provide a forum for valuable open discussion between young people, volunteers and staff facilitators where ideas and opinions can be shared in a safe and supportive environment.
  • Provide assistance and/or guidance on issues or projects as identified by staff facilitators.
  • To provide an opportunity for young people to build on and expand their skills in leadership, communication, problem solving, team work and mentoring.
  • Promoting positive images of young people in their school and wider community, recognising the contribution that young people make to their communities.
  • To inform the expansion of CTC in Geelong.

Benefits to young people:

  • Young people will be actively involved in and connected with the community in a meaningful way.
  • Capturing all that is important in a young person’s world from their own perspective.
  • Young people will access training and education to improve employment opportunities.
  • Young people will become more aware of services within the community and confident to access.
  • Young people will develop confidence and leadership skills to assist in entering the workforce.

When and how did the selection process and establishment of the YAG begin?

The process began once we were notified of the funding in May this year (2018).  We put together a working group to discuss the YAG and how it might look.  The working group consists of wellbeing staff at all schools involved (Northern Bay College (NBC) – 5 campuses and Lara Secondary College), Health promotion nurses from NBC, an employee from Deakin University who has involvement in facilitating these types of groups.  Interviewing for the position of the YAG facilitator has taken place and we have appointed Kahani Motiani.  Kahani will now be involved in the establishing stages of the Youth Advisory Group – in particular the recruitment of young people.

Staff from both schools have held workshops with members of SRC groups to discuss the core priorities of the CTC Steering Committee and how messaging can be delivered out into the community.

Kahani Motiani YAG Facilitator

What changes do you see after you have been working with the young people?

That they are much more confident in themselves, develop more advanced problem-solving skills, communication skills and see themselves as leaders in the community – agents for change.

 

If you would like more information on Communities That Care go to www.communitiesthatcare.org.au

If you would like more information or to make a donation to Geelong Community Foundation, please go to https://www.geelongfoundation.org/giving