VFFF Youth Advisory Group - In Conversation with Charlotte Watson
“I wanted to join the VFFF Youth Advisory Group to learn more about participatory grant making and to use my skills and experience to contribute to elevating the voices of young people" - Charlotte Watson
The launch of VFFF’s inaugural Youth Advisory Group was an important step in introducing rural and regional youth voices into our grant making under Backing Young People. Three times a year, Youth Advisory Group members come together to shortlist Backing the Future grants and share their insights on the current needs and priorities of young people. Each member of the Youth Advisory Group brings a unique skillset and point of view.
We are excited to launch a quarterly interview series with our Youth Advisory Group, showcasing their insights, expertise and the value of community-led grant making. Our first interview features Charlotte Watson. Based in Brisbane, Charlotte is a 22-year-old lawyer focused on the social enterprise, philanthropic, charitable and not-for-profit sectors. Alongside her work with VFFF, Charlotte is a Committee Member of Y Australia.
VFFF: Tell us a bit about you! Where are you from, what do you do, and what are some of your passions/interests?
Charlotte: Hello! My name is Charlotte Watson. I am a lawyer working at Hundt Law in Brisbane, with experience working with charitable and not-for-profit organisations on their corporate, commercial and property projects. In my role, I enjoy working directly with passionate people and organisations focused on working with their communities, particularly in the community services, affordable housing, education, and disability sectors. The most important part of my work is helping clients achieve positive outcomes that maximise their social impact.
I am a member of a committee to the national board of The Y Australia and am particularly passionate about supporting organisations that invest in the potential of young people. I have been involved with YMCA Brisbane since 2018 through the YMCA Queensland Youth Parliament. We recently delivered our peak annual event which has 93 young people aged 15-25 take over Queensland Parliament for a week to discuss important issues impacting young people in Queensland.
I am interested in music and enjoy performing in the Lumens Chamber Choir. I like going for hikes and I enjoy keeping up to date with the latest Bluey episodes.
What is your connection to rural and regional Australia?
I was born in Townsville where I had my first few years. My family are from North Queensland and Shoalhaven and are deeply involved in their local communities which I continue to see as an important background and connection while I am based in Brisbane. Specifically, my wider family has various histories of involvement in their communities as dairy farmers and members of local council in Shoalhaven, and professional and church-based roles in Townsville and Cairns.
"In my professional life, I regularly work with clients or colleagues based in or supporting regional and rural Queensland, NSW and Victoria, and find my background a valuable connection."
You have been a member of our Youth Advisory Group for six months now. What has been the highlight of the process so far?
The highlight has been meeting the members of the Youth Advisory Group (YAG) in person in Sydney, and learning about their backgrounds, passions and ideas. I have valued the opportunity to learn more about the in-house operations of a large philanthropic foundation like VFFF and meet the passionate staff who manage its programs and grants. It has been exciting to learn more about participatory grant making by being directly involved in the shortlisting process. During our YAG meeting for the first NSW round, we were able to share and listen to different perspectives on the strengths and weaknesses of the applications from the lived experience of young people in regional and rural areas.
"I have been surprised and motivated by the tangible value of integrating youth voice into grant processes, particularly where young people are identified as the grant beneficiaries."
I am looking forward to continuing to learn more about philanthropic social impact and the work of VFFF in 2023.
What is one issue facing young people that you would like to highlight to our readers?
One of the pressing issues impacting young people in Australia is economic participation and meaningful employment pathways. This is not just an important issue for young people, it is an issue that impacts the wellbeing of all Australians. However young people are especially and immediately vulnerable to economic downturn while they make up narrow and casualised sections of the workforce. This issue is becoming more urgent as we continue to see a broader rising cost of living and unaffordable housing markets. Experiences of unemployment (and underemployment) have significant and ongoing impacts on the independence, health and wellbeing of a young person. This is a complex issue, but I firmly think it needs more genuine attention from the public and private sectors to determine fresh solutions.