VFFF Youth Advisory Group - In conversation with James Atkinson
"I think that the Youth Advisory Group model is really exciting and innovative, and I hope that it encourages other trusts and foundations to explore how they can incorporate participatory grantmaking into their decision-making." - James Atkinson
As part of our regular Youth Advisory Group Q&A series, we are excited to introduce you to James Atkinson.
Tell us a bit about you! Where are you from, what do you do, and what are some of your passions/interests?
James: I grew up in Wagga in regional New South Wales, the proud home of Australia’s ninth best beach (in 2020) “Wagga beach”, which is on the banks of the Murrumbidgee River. Like plenty of people from the country, I moved away for uni and now live in Melbourne but I feel so lucky that I got to grow up in Wagga, and that I still get to go back there when living in the city gets too much.
I work and volunteer in the climate movement, mostly in fundraising and engagement roles. Aside from resourcing critically impactful work, I reckon fundraising plays a really important role connecting donors to the impact that is possible with their help. I’ve been really proud through this work to share stories of some of the amazing people across rural and regional Australia who are working together to build collective resilience in the face of climate change and many other intersecting challenges facing their communities.
What is your connection to rural and regional Australia?
Wagga is still very much home for me – and I think it always will be. All of my family still live in town and I visit as often as I can (in fact, I am writing this from Wagga right now), but more than that it continues to shape and influence the person I am and how I go about the world. For me, that really comes down to the importance of caring for your community and the natural environment.
One story I would love to share is how a group of people got together and pulled off Wagga’s first ever Mardi Gras Festival in 2019 and now it’s one of the biggest events on the town’s annual calendar. I was back home around the same time of this year’s Mardi Gras and felt so proud walking down the main street and seeing the pride flag and other displays of support in the shop fronts, pubs and cafes.
You have been a member of our Youth Advisory Group for more than a year now. What has been the highlight of the process so far?
I think that the Youth Advisory Group model is really exciting and innovative, and I hope that it encourages other trusts and foundations to explore how they can incorporate participatory grantmaking into their decision-making. It’s been great connecting with other staff within VFFF to provide a youth perspective to their work and also hearing how the learnings from the Youth Advisory Group is informing VFFF’s grant making.
"On a more personal level, I have loved working with the members of the Youth Advisory Group and hearing from them about how they consider the issues and applications that come in front of us."
I have found the shortlisting process for the three Backing the Future grant rounds we’ve advised on so far really energising because every one of us has something different to offer, and I feel like my understanding of the challenges and opportunities facing rural and regional Australia expands every time we all meet.