12 April 2024

'On the Cusp' empowers regional youth to tackle the big issues affecting our communities

| Chris Roe
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Participants from On the Cusp events in Shellharbour.

Participants from On the Cusp events in Shellharbour. Photo: Supplied.

Emily Jones is passionate about empowering young regional voices and is hoping to gather the next generation of Riverina leaders in Junee this weekend.

The founder of On the Cusp said the two-day workshop was a chance for young people from across the region to meet to learn how to tackle the big issues affecting their communities.

“We’ll bring the young people together and spend time hearing about the issues they care about,” she said.

“We’ll teach them about all the different avenues that are available to them to make change, whether that be talking with your local decision-makers at a council, state or federal level, running a petition, and talking to the media.”

READ ALSO Shellharbour’s Emily Jones craved local leadership opportunities – so she started a program to create them

The event is aimed at young people aged between 16 and 35 who care about their community and want to help make it a better place to live and work.

“They’ll have a chance to get to know each other and get connected with community leaders because young people are so much more powerful when they can work with others to make a difference,” Emily said.

“We’re trying to help them understand that they can actually play a role in shaping the future of their communities.”

Emily Jones wants to empower young people to have their say on local issues. Photo: Supplied.

Emily launched On the Cusp in 2023 in three regional locations including her hometown of Shellharbour, along with Yass and Junee, to give a boost to local youth looking for opportunities.

“They’re areas undergoing change, great change, as more and more people move in from bigger urban centres or cities,” Emily said.

“So it’s important that young people shape that change so that it works for them because they’re the ones that are going to be living in those communities for the rest of their lives hopefully.”

Wagga local Hadi Nazari is looking forward to connecting with others from across the region and said that it came at the right time.

“I’m looking forward to meeting with other young people from across the Riverina at the On the Cusp meeting and working with them to tackle some of these issues,” he said.

“We need local solutions that tackle some of the bigger issues facing our community now, like having more local spaces and opportunities for young people. And young people need to have a say about what those solutions look like.”

READ ALSO Regional telco customers urged to check their 4G tech as 3G shutdown looms

Emily agreed that access to appropriate public spaces and more community events were common themes.

“When you’re a teenager in the regions, often the only opportunities that are available to you to go and meet up with your mates are either at a sporting club or maybe the cinemas if you’re lucky enough to have one,” she said.

“Beyond that, there are very few places and events for young people to get together and enjoy each other’s company.

“We’ve discussed things like community centres that were a bit less daggy and more exciting with activities that are run by young people, for young people that are fun and feel really safe.”

She said cost-of-living pressures were the biggest issue weighing on the minds of young people as they contemplated life after school.

“Young people are really struggling to make ends meet. They’re struggling to afford to live in the communities that they’ve grown up in. And so these are the issues that they really want to see addressed,” Emily said.

“Action on climate change is another massive one because the future of their communities is at stake and young people want to ensure that they can continue to enjoy the same environment that they had growing up.”

Emily said that in the months since launching On the Cusp the response had been gratifying.

“It’s actually surpassed all of my expectations and the people we’re meeting are saying that they are just so grateful to have had an opportunity like this because prior to that, they just felt like they were being ignored,” she reflected.

“We are just really excited to get stuck into the issues that they care about and want to connect like-minded young people from across the regions.”

The free two-day Reimagining the Riverina workshop is on in Junee on 13-14 April and will be held (ironically) at the Junee Senior Citizens Club.

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