Youth Action Council making its mark

It may have been awarded Stawell's Australia Day Young Citizen of the Year for 2014, but the hard work for the Northern Grampians Youth Action Council (YAC) has only just begun.

The first ever YAC is a prime example of youth taking the opportunity to make a difference in the town of Stawell.

Speaking on behalf of YAC, member Lauren Dempsey explains the reasoning behind the group's formation.

"Council saw it as an opportunity to improve the connection between young people and their communities by promoting the positive contributions that they make," she said.

The Youth Action Council was formed in April last year by the Northern Grampians Shire Council for youth aged 12-25 years old and is being funded through the State Government's 2012-2014 Engage! program.

The program aims to help improve young people's support networks and strengthen their connections with family, friends and peers.

The YAC was nominated for two awards at last month's Northern Grampians Shire Australia Day ceremony, Young Citizen of the Year and Community Event of the Year, taking home the Young Citizen of the Year.

Ms Dempsey said the YAC members have set the direction of the group based on some of the issues they would like to focus on in developing their Youth Strategy, which will guide council in improving opportunities for young people in the Northern Grampians Shire.

These include a lack of youth events, mental healthcare, developing a youth hub and drugs and alcohol culture.

Ms Dempsey, along with Matilda Douglas (chairperson), Harriet Madams, Titian Linley, Tianna Hendy, Jamie Perry, Lily Matheson, Brad Greene and Ruby Sutherland make up the Youth Action Council.

The YAC is overseen and supported by Youth and Community Development Officer, Amy Rhodes.

The 2010 Young Citizen of the Year, Ms Rhodes is a strong advocate for keeping young people in rural areas and improving their opportunities.

One of the YAC's main objectives is to create more events for youth in the local area.

"So far we have put on several events for the community which have achieved great success. Our very first event was a music night called 'Little Night Out' held in St Arnaud," Ms Dempsey said.

The YAC has also held a Twilight Cinema night in Stawell, which saw a crowd of more than 400 people and in excess of $1000 raised for Movember.

It is currently in the stages of planning its next event and the group has a received a $10,000 grant from the Foundation for Rural and Regional Renewal (FRRR) to implement a mental health project within Northern Grampians Shire.

The funding will be used to deliver interactive and engaging workshops across all 13 schools in the shire to provide students with valuable information on mental health and health services.

The Youth Action Council also plans to run a number of subsidised mental health first aid workshops for all members of the community.

Ms Dempsey joined the YAC after she moved to Stawell from Geelong more than 12 months ago.

The 23-year-old is pleased with her decision to move to Stawell and has outlined the Youth Action Council's plans for the town going forward.

"I really see potential for this town. There's a lot the town has to offer it's just a matter of young people realising that," Ms Dempsey said.

"There are some youth today who say that they are 'bored' in the town or 'there's nothing to do'.

"We are addressing these issues and trying to change that. We are creating and holding events in both Stawell and St Arnaud such as the Twilight Cinemas where anybody can come along and have a fun night out.

"It's an event which is a bit different and there's never really been anything similar in the town before. We get a lot of positive feedback from our events and we are looking to continue to do these within our shire as we have had such wonderful local support."

Celebrating Stawell's Golden Gifts is brought to you by Navarre Minerals, who are proud to be part of the Stawell community.

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