Mitchell Shire workshops

As part of National Youth Week 2013, I took a trip up the M31 to Broadford on Monday 8 April.  Aaron Garth and Buffy Leadbeater from Mitchell Shire Council Youth Services had kindly arranged for me to meet with a group of local young people and a group of youth practitioners, to discuss youth engagement.

The first session was with seven young people from Broadford and Wallan. We started by discussing what life was like for young people in their communities.

The group felt there were not enough options for youth entertainment, too few designated areas for young people to socialise, and that young people were disadvantaged by poor access to transport (interestingly, these frustrations echoed the concerns of the young people at our previous regional workshop in Wonthaggi).

In response to this, we workshopped ideas that might improve things for young people locally. The group’s top three suggestions are below: a movie theatre, a social space for young people, and a skate park (this is currently in the planning stages with local council but the group felt this process wasn’t moving quickly enough).

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Having identified some initial examples of how they might create change in their communities, I asked the group to come up with their ideas for how we might re-shape the Taking Young People Seriously: Creating Change in Your Community handbook into a new, practical resource that would help them to continue the work.

Their suggestions were as follows:

  • A simple layout
  • Use more colour and graffiti to attract the eye
  • Good graphic design
  • No pictures of school
  • Not every young person is on Facebook – there is still a need to cover other ways to promote activities to young people, like SMS messaging and posters.

The group finished the session by recording some short video interviews with each other about their tips for engaging with young people. Hopefully, we will be able to use excerpts from these in the final resources. Thanks very much to all the young people – Alecia, Bailey, Marcus, Rose, Slade, Sunny and Zane –  for their ideas and feedback.

The second session was for adults working with young people across the Mitchell Shire area, and we were fortunate to welcome a range of practitioners from youth, education and community development settings.

We discussed theory around youth participation and engagement and reflected upon the different reasons why we might seek to undertake such work. I asked participants to identify what youth engagement work they could identify locally, where the gaps were in youth engagement and participation work, and what tools would help fill these gaps. Their responses are outlined below:

What youth engagement work is happening locally?

  • Sporting clubs
  • Youth employment agencies
  • Alternative secondary education programs
  • Freeza
  • School council meetings to involve youth in decision making at a higher level
  • Youth music and art programs
  • Mitchell Shire Youth Engagement Strategy
  • Youth Pathways and Participation Network
  • Engage program
  • Work with the local Police force
  • A number of youth groups in different areas

What is working and why?

  • Events that are about young people’s interests
  • Good networks, ground level staff working well together
Youth practitioners' ideas from the workshop

Youth practitioners’ ideas from the workshop

Where are the gaps in youth engagement and participation work?

  • Knowledge of programs
  • Working better in partnership
  • Transport
  • Sharing information and resources
  • Money / funding
  • Lack of collaboration
  • Commitment from management
  • Lack of awareness or theory-guided practice

What tools / information would help fill the gaps in knowledge and practice?

  • More funding
  • Better transport
  • Forums for youth workers and youth to share each other’s stories
  • Guidance for practitioners on using social media to engage with young people
  • Tools that enhance:
    • Collaboration
    • Conversations
    • Information sharing
    • Advocacy to government / funders / policy makers
    • management’s awareness of, and support for, youth engagement and participation initiatives

To conclude, I asked the group what their suggestions were for the youth engagement resources. Their thoughts were:

  • Make it user-friendly
  • Make it easy to understand
  • Use fact-sheets – get straight to the point
  • Simplify things by using Use one model of engagement, not several
  • Printed documents still useful alongside web resources

The feedback throughout the workshop was extremely useful and the data will be analysed in more detail by the project steering committee at our next meeting.

Many thanks to everyone who participated in the workshops and thanks to Buffy and Aaaron for their support and organisation.

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