8 June 2022

Regional youth wellbeing a priority: NSW government's youngest policy advisors

| Anna Maskus
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Minister Ben Franklin talks with youths

Minister Ben Franklin (centre) discusses ideas with the Taskforce. Photo: Waggawagga TV.

Members of a statewide task force recently sat down with government ministers to discuss wellbeing policies. Importantly, the policy advisors were between 12 and 22 years old.

Minister for Regional Youth Ben Franklin and Minister for Education Sarah Mitchell met with the Regional Youth Taskforce at Borambola to discuss youth wellbeing in the state’s rural and regional areas.

“We’re here because we want to hear suggestions from the young people who know best what they need in their communities,” Minister Franklin said.

Chelsey Burgess Hannon, who represented the Riverina and Murray region, said her desire to join the Taskforce was motivated by her local community.

“I think people in regional areas can often feel isolated, and I’d like to see a greater range of services available to people around my age in the state, especially in rural and remote locations,” the 17-year-old explained.

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Now in its third year, Taskforce members directly advise the Regional Youth Minister on issues affecting young people according to the Regional Youth Framework.

Last week’s Borambola forum focused on the Framework’s pillar of wellbeing, for which parents, employers and youth workers were also consulted.

The 2022 Taskforce’s first meeting took place in Dubbo, where members discussed how to get the state’s youth work-ready.

Taskforce forums allow government to consult youth from all over the state regarding various policies and how to improve access to services.

Mr Franklin indicated the government had begun to see evidence that more wellbeing support was required.

“The last few years have delivered extraordinary challenges to young people, having a relentless impact on their mental health,” he said.

“We understand that we need to think about doing things differently as a government.”

Some of the wellbeing-focused suggestions put to the ministers included an education campaign about social media within schools. Hence, students understood the advantages, disadvantages and unconscious influence digital spaces had on their everyday lives.

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Discussions about increasing the number of outreach workers were high on the agenda, with youth calling for an increase in the number of mental health professionals, particularly in the small and remote communities that often miss out.

“One idea that I particularly love is developing a government app that immediately pinpoints your location and can give you a list of the wraparound wellbeing services closest to you,” Mr Franklin said.

He also emphasised that for those of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander descent, “the app could link you with a local elder as well, to provide real breadth of support across culture that is desperately needed”.

Future meetings this year will address connectivity and community, and Chelsey looks forward to using her position to give more people a voice in the region.

“We don’t have many region-focused programs which have specific impact on policy, so this task force genuinely has the power to make a difference in the community.”

Find out more about the Regional Youth Taskforce Taskforce here.

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