Rural Council Youth Project

The Rural Council Youth Project has been part of significant change in rural and regional Councilsí response to young people in Victoria. Councilsí commitment to improved policy, planning and practice is recognising the central role of youth in rural renewal. The Rural Council Youth Project was funded under the Local Government Incentive Programme, a $7 million two year Programme available in 1999-2001.

In its final year, grants up to a maximum of $100,000 were available for projects directed at the adoption of best practice and sharing technical expertise across Councils; the promotion of an enhanced role for Local Government in leading their communities; and increasing the capacity of Local Government to contribute to regional development. Funding from National Office of Local Government has enabled RMIT to employ a half time Project Officer, Richard Hill, to support and resource Victoriaís rural and regional Councils in developing their work with young people.

The Project has engaged over 40 Councils through the following.

  • A Rural Conference which attracted 90 people from 35 Councils
  • Creating, with Youth Development Workers, a toolkit to improve their practice
  • Youth Strategy workshops, which have assisted 20 Councils in shaping their youth plans
  • Response to over 100 requests for assistance, ranging from emailed information, to a half day workshop with Councillors at Murrindindi
  • Many other presentations and workshops
  • Defining and advocating Local Governmentís role with youth, a task now being pursued by a Local Government youth services network

The most exciting examples of the growing focus on youth is the recognition that youth participation can mean real leadership and community action by young people. Youth Development Workers are being employed to consult and involve young people in the lives of their communities.

In Moyne, youth actions groups have been formed to implement their visions for their town with support from Councilís community builders program. In Macedon, several hundred youth volunteers have created activities that attract many students back from Melbourne every weekend. In the North East, a range of youth Forums have lead to youth cafes, changes in youth services, youth directed skateboard facilities and many other youth lead initiatives.

Youth Councils, forums and facilities are appearing in many towns, creating positive images of young people, and reconnecting them to their communities.Councils are recognising that all their activities impact on youth, be it strategic planning, by laws or employment. The policy development the Project has supported has often been about developing a whole of Council approach.

Young people on Macedonís youth advisory group are planning to consult all sections of Council to review and improve their impacts on youth in a whole of Council Youth Strategy. Wellington has been committing considerable resources to providing a traineeship program to young people.

In representing their communities including youth, some are taking on advocacy and coordinating roles to ensure that education, employment and welfare services are available to young people in their communities, and that they are youth friendly and coordinated. Young peopleís research has provided input to local community services and Council about what works for young people in Wodonga. Multi service youth centres have been initiated by Councils in Mildura, Horsham, Bendigo among others.

The Rural Council Youth Project finished in July 2002 and work is now under way to create ways to further the progress described here.

  • Manuals and policy and service models are being documented
  • A youth service network is forming
  • Further resources are being sought
  • Fee for service consultancy is being offered to individual Councils

RMIT and the Municipal Association of Victoria are exploring with other peak bodies how to carry this exciting work forward. Enquiries, support and contributions can be directed to Richard Hill at rhill@mav.asn.au.