A couple of weeks ago, a group of twenty-five State-wide Rural Youth Ambassadors travelled to Canberra to meet with Government Ministers, senior personnel from the Department of Education and representatives of key stakeholder groups to share their experiences of living in these communities, as well as propose ideas for improvements.
Travelling across Australia; from Maraki in Northern Territory, Kalbarri in Western Australia, Cobar in outback New South Wales, St George in Queensland, Allendale East in South Australia, Wilsons Promontory in Victoria and everywhere in between these young people presented a number of key areas that they would like to see improved in relation to their education – many of them who had never travelled on a plane or visited the country’s capital.
The Rural Youth Ambassadors had the opportunity to develop a national view on the lived experience of young people across rural and remote Australia – not surprisingly regardless of which state or territory they came from, the challenges they face are very common – the lack of opportunities in relation to curriculum choices and information on possible pathways after finishing schooling, the increasing challenge of getting staff to come to rural and remote communities, the challenges being faced by young people with diverse backgrounds (including sexual preference, cultural background and the like) and the growing levels of mental health challenges.
In Western Australia, the Rural Youth Ambassador program has operated in two large rural regions of the state – one in the Wheatbelt region and the other in the Mid-West region – a region that is larger than the state of Victoria.
The Rural Youth Ambassadors in the Wheatbelt explored a range of ideas that would address the difficulties young people have in accessing information about university and the many pathways after high school with the Murdoch University.
In addition, the Rural Youth Ambassadors developed a proposal to see Yr 11 and 12 offered to District Highs which is not currently available to them. They presented their ideas to principals of the region where they encouraged them to work together to improve the lives and outcomes of Wheatbelt youth.
In The Mid West region, the Rural Youth Ambassadors have developed a creative approach to the delivery of education throughout the region utilising a collaborative approach. Known as VECTOR (Virtual Education Connections to Overcome Remoteness) the proposal is centred on supporting schools throughout the Mid-West in developing a collaborative approach throughout the region to ensure that all young people are provided with the education they need and want. The Rural Youth Ambassadors have developed a Discussion Paper that outlines their ideas and they have presented it to principals and senior education personnel within the region. See the Discussion Paper by clicking on “VECTOR”.
Already principals within the region are beginning to develop strategies and ideas that are outlined within the Discussion Paper for implementation in 2023.
The highlight of the week saw the Rural Youth Ambassadors spending a day in Parliament House, hosted by the Minister for Youth Affairs, The Hon Anne Aly. Their day at Parliament House including spending time with their local member, participating in Question Time and meeting with a number of Ministers and politicians. The day concluded with an open forum hosted by the Minister for Youth Affairs and the Minister for Regional Services involving a number of elected members from across rural and regional Australia. The Rural Youth Ambassadors presented their lived experience and shared the ideas that they had developed which resulted in an extensive and detailed discussion with the various members involved.
The impact of these discussions saw the Ministers indicating that they would take on board a number of the areas highlighted by the Rural Youth Ambassadors to ensure that the lives of young people within rural and remote Australia are enhanced and improved so that they can fully realise their life and career journey dreams.
While in Canberra, the Rural Youth Ambassadors also met with senior personnel from the Commonwealth Department of Education where areas such as senior schooling options, transitions to the next stage of their life after school, and further education opportunities were explored in great depth.
In a discussion with the leaders from the Regional Australia Institute, the Rural Youth Ambassadors explored a range of areas that were highlighted within the Institutes Balancing the Nations framework and specifically explored how rural and remote young people can be engaged within the Institutes work into the future.
Finally, the Rural Youth Ambassadors met with staff from the newly formed Office for Youth who were very keen to explore the key issues the Rural Youth Ambassadors had been exploring over the past twelve months, and a real interest from the staff from the Office for Youth to engage with the Rural Youth Ambassadors into the future.
While in Canberra, the Rural Youth Ambassadors also had the opportunity to share their experiences regardless of where they live, and have developed friendships that will last for many years into the future.