Moree Youth Forum
Youth Voices in Action
On 17 and 18 March 2022, VFFF’s Program Manager, Contributing to Society Natalie Buckett attended the Moree Youth Forum. Hosted at Moree’s SHAE Academy, the youth-led event provided an opportunity for "young people to come together, grow connections, come up with ideas and make plans for what they want to see for Moree", as well as "learn new skills on how to make change".
The event was designed and developed by and for young people, creating an agenda that resonated with the more than 300 students in attendance. The two-day forum was held in conjunction with the Moree Block Party – a celebration of young people and community hosted by Gomeroi rapper
Kobie Dee. Kobie was also deeply involved in the Youth Forum and shared some of his story and how he found his voice with young people.
Each morning, the forum featured a strengths-based session prompting young people to consider ways to improve and enhance their community. Leadership and advocacy workshops delivered by Youth Action and Sydney Policy Lab then encouraged and equipped students to turn their ideas into
action. In the afternoon, there were Women and Men’s sessions facilitated by Moree community members - the cultural dancing and knowledge sharing was the highlight of the day for many young people at the forum.
The forum was attended by a range of local youth service organisations, representing a joint commitment to listening to the insights, aspirations and concerns of the young people they work with.
The initiative was supported and facilitated by Just Reinvest NSW. Established in 2011, Just Reinvest "supports Aboriginal communities to explore and establish justice reinvestment initiatives and advocates for systemic changes that build safer and stronger communities." VFFF has been pleased to support Just Reinvest’s work with communities including Bourke, Mt Druitt and Moree.
Mekayla Cochrane, who was one of the forum's key organisers, told VFFF:
“Seeing so many young people engaged and empowered at the youth forum was very meaningful. There are currently no safe spaces for young people to voice their opinions and the youth forum
showed hope and the potential Moree can offer. We hope we can make this an annual event, with young people from previous years coming in and leading the way. We are also looking forward to supporting young people throughout the year with opportunities and support to grow their skills and advocacy impact.”
Over the course of the forum, young people identified both challenges and opportunities in their community and collaborated on positive, practical solutions and suggestions for change. This highlighted young people’s capacity and desire to shape better futures for both themselves and their communities.
Their insights will now be shared with the broader Moree community. "A Moree Youth Forum report will be distributed to decision makers young people have chosen and youth services in town to continue to grow momentum around young people’s empowerment,” said Mekayla.
- Involving young people in the development of youth-focused initiatives increases both buy-in and impact.
- Don’t underestimate young people’s capacity to develop practical, straightforward solutions to the issues they face: students at the forum were able to suggest clear and actionable responses to their own concerns, like more safe places to be at night.
- It is invaluable to be in the room: sitting with young people as they participated in the forum provided unique and direct access to the insights of rural and regional youth, as well as the ecosystem of services that support them.
- Intergenerational engagement: students communicated their desire to work with their families, elders and communities to make positive change.
- The regional experience: while rural and regional young people articulate many of the same concerns as their metro counterparts, understanding their context is key to developing effective solutions e.g. while sport is an empowering outlet, lack of access to public transport disrupts participation.
- Collaboration is key: by bringing together different youth services active in Moree, the youth forum responded to the diverse, multi-faceted and often intersecting needs of young people e.g. legal representation, social and emotional wellbeing and connection to culture.