Health and wellbeing

Young Sydneysiders gain skills and give back to communities with help from local programs

Elevating young voices through creative and socially focused work during Youth Week and all year round

Youth Week 2021

Young people will inherit the world created by those in power today. But not enough outlets exist for younger generations, particularly marginalised people, to say what they think is important.

Each year, people aged 12 to 25 and their communities around Australia organise events to showcase their talents and share ideas as part of Youth Week.

As all things, the festivities look a little different this year. Due to Covid-19 restrictions, there won’t be any official gatherings in person. However, there’s a lot going on behind the scenes to help local young people develop their art, thinking, organising and other skills throughout the year.

Young people, especially those already vulnerable, are facing a harsher reality as a result of the global pandemic. This is in work, study and mental health, all areas of life which will have longstanding social impacts.

Here’s a chance to find out what’s happening and hear from the young creatives and civic leaders facing our increasingly challenging world.

Weaving future visions through conversation

Weave is a non-profit organisation that supports local young people and their families. It was established 45 years ago in response to advocacy by a group of local Aboriginal mothers who wanted support for their young people. Weave continues to be a place-based community-led organisation empowering people to change their own lives.

As part of Youth Week, Weave has produced 8 short videos that capture casual conversations exploring the experiences and opinions of young people in inner Sydney. Participants shared their thoughts on what needs to change in the world and how they’re using their strengths to work towards this in their own communities. The idea is to foreground the present concerns of a group of locals and highlight the diversity their voices.

“No man should have money in their bank or millions of dollars when there are kids that can’t even afford to eat, or they are gonna die tonight, or right now. The system isn’t broken either, that’s the way it was designed in the first place,” said participant Karl (24).

And Naz’ (21) perspective was that, “Loving and being kind to yourself is an act of resistance to the coldness of the world.”

You can check out the full conversations from Monday 19 April. Weave's 'What You Don't Hear' podcast is on Spotify, Apple and Google Podcasts. You can also watch the conversations on YouTube.

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Exhibiting art on the streetscape

At the other end of Redfern on Abercrombie Street, Youthblock health services have converted 4 huge windows in their building into an art exhibition on the street. Health promotion officer Rosie Taranto explained: “It’s so difficult to exhibit art as a young person. We thought it’d be wonderful to open up the windows to young artists to showcase and sell their work. This would provide an opportunity for connection and employment after what has been an incredibly hard year for young people.”

River (19) and Telaan (16) are 2 artists who will have their work on show. Both want to see gender, sexuality and other types of diversity recognised and embraced. River commented, “Curiosity is what helps me to grow both as an artist and as a person.

“I use my curiosity when I reach out to other members of my community and ask when the systems that direct our lives have failed them, so that we may root out these issues and create the world we want to see.”

You can view these artworks at 288 Abercrombie Street, Darlington from Friday 16 April to Sunday 16 May. You can purchase by direct messaging the artists via their Instagram. Their handles will be noted beside the works.

Artists with their work on display at Youthblock health services. Photo: Sarah Cooper, Sydney Local Health District
Artists with their work on display at Youthblock health services. Photo: Sarah Cooper, Sydney Local Health District

Training for civic engagement

The City of Sydney runs a civic leaders program to help young people hone the skills for socially engaged work and activism: mobilising voters, delivering local projects and meeting with decision makers.

Graduating participant Carlie (24) said knowing how to make a difference can be really confusing – and she wants to see young people be included in decision-making as equals. Following her participation in the civic leaders program, Carlie went on to the Y20 Youth Summit as an Australian delegate. The Y20 presents policy recommendations on behalf of young people to G20 world leaders. Carlie has since gone on to full time work in homelessness services.

You can sign up to find out about the program in the future.

Last year, we also celebrated 5 outstanding community leaders with the Betty Makin Youth Awards. Named after the dedicated activist and Redfern local Betty Makin, the awards included 2 winners in each category of creativity and community mindedness. The awards also recognised a youth worker of the year and a group award for outstanding partnership.

Emerging Civic Leaders
Emerging Civic Leaders

Finding fulfilling work

Recognising that finding work is increasingly difficult for young people and that this has been magnified by Covid-19, the City of Sydney supported the Ripple Career Lab. The program offered tangible advice including resume and application writing for 15 young people.

“There are a lot of opportunities out there that many young people might not know about, a lot of ways you can serve your community,” said Kaela (26), who went through the program last year. “Now, I am working with UN Women Australia, a non-profit that advocates for gender equality and studying peace and conflict.”

For Anthony (22), one of the most helpful tasks from the program was developing an 'aspirational resume'. “We looked at a job that we'd like to have in the short-to-medium-term future, and (went) through the job description, asking what skills we currently have, are in the process of getting, or need to get to apply for that job.”

“I applied for one using (the) awesome cover letter guide and got it! I'm now doing an internship program at Australia's oldest not-for-profit, Bible Society Australia.”

We’ll be celebrating the minds and achievements of young people as part of Youth Week 2021 from Friday 16 April to Saturday 24 April. You can also read more about our community initiatives.

Published 20 April 2021, updated 22 April 2021