Many young people want to make a difference in their communities, but don’t know how to get started.
Where do you look for opportunities? And how do you know if it’s right for you?
In this article, we’ll look at:
- Opportunities within your local community
- Opportunities within the broader community
- Getting started with your first opportunity!
Local Community Opportunities: start with your local council
As a young person, I’ve found that my local council always has loads of opportunities available, with many specifically created for people under the age of 25. If you’re looking to start making a difference somewhere, this is the best place to look!
Callouts from Councils range from job openings, volunteering placements, positions on youth advisory panels and applications to be part of workshops, forums, consultations and programs. All these initiatives are often focused on two things:
1. Sharing your perspective
Asking people under 25 to share their perspective and what they’ve heard from their peers to the Council on the work their doing. This is a great way to give feedback that could directly impact the things that affect you, your friends and the other young people around you. This could either be a once-off or regularly and is a great way to meet like-minded people within your community.
2. Gaining new skills
The activities could be looking at upskilling young people to provide them with the knowledge and skills to be an active member of their community. This could include hearing from current leaders and their stories, advocacy workshops, programs focusing on improving communication and public speaking and being part of the teams who put together events for young people.
Many councils will often advertise these opportunities on their social media accounts (through Facebook or Instagram) as well as on their website (often through the Youth Services branch of the Council). Following their pages and subscribing to their newsletter is a great way to hear about the latest initiatives.
If you’re not sure which council you live in, you can find out by going to https://knowyourcouncil.vic.gov.au/councils
Often, if you live, work or study in multiple councils, you’d be eligible to participate in initiatives within more than one council, too!
Councils may also promote opportunities from external groups such as Headspace and other community-based organisations that are running programs for young people.
Broader Community Opportunities: getting to know organisations that help to empower young people
For young people looking to make a difference within their wider community, several peak bodies (organisations that represent entire communities, sectors or industries) represent people under 25. These organisations will promote initiatives specifically for the youth sector. They include:
Youth Affairs Council Victoria (YACVic) is Victoria’s peak body for representing young people across the state. They regularly promote opportunities through their e-newsletters and social media accounts that come from government departments or commissions, as well as community-based and youth advocacy organisations in addition to local Councils. YACVic provides training resources for skills such as youth participation and speaking with the media. The peak-body also provides networking opportunities and has a dedicated rural and disability advocacy branch. You can sign up as a young member for $3/year. This investment quickly pays itself back when you attend any paid training programs or conferences at a discounted rate!
They are the peak body that represents primary and secondary-aged students across the state. Organisations (particularly those with a focus on education) who are seeking to hear the voices of school-aged students will often advertise in their ‘Student Community’ newsletter. You may also be interested in being part of their Ambassador Program, their annual Congress or their Executive Committee if you’re passionate about education!
YMCA is a not-for-profit organisation that delivers a vast number of services across the state. They have opportunities for all Victorians, including young people to volunteer or participate in their programs. Opportunities include their annual Youth Parliament (where proposals can be passed onto the State Government for consideration), various leadership programs as well as youth events and mentoring initiatives.
Other organisations that may provide similar opportunities include:
- The Foundation for Young Australians (FYA). gives young people the power to beat injustice and transform the future.
- The Centre for Multicultural Youth (CMY): provides specialist knowledge and support to young people from migrant and refugee backgrounds.
- YWCA: an unapologetically feminist organisation focused on young women’s leadership and women’s housing.
- Student Youth Network (SYN): a media organisation run by a community of young people that provides broadcasting and training opportunities for young Australians.
Haven’t been part of any opportunities before and want to know where to get started? Try following these steps:
Get to know the organisations that can support you
Browse through either your local Council website or any of the peak-body websites listed above to see if any current opportunities may interest you.
Follow and subscribe
Follow the organisations listed above on social media and subscribe to their e-newsletters to hear about any initiatives that might come up throughout the year.
Think about attending networking events such as YACVic’s Young Person Huddle to get to know other like-minded people from across the state or contacting your local Council’s youth service to ask if there are any open opportunities at the moment.
Register for opportunities
When you’ve found an opportunity that you’re keen on, check to see if you need to register or if there’s an application process. If you need any assistance, feel free to reach out to a friend, adult or the program facilitator.
Bring a friend (or ask them to apply too) if you’re nervous! You can both reap the benefits of meeting new people and making a difference.
Get to know like-minded people
Introduce yourself to someone new and get to know why you’re both there. Most initiatives will have people attending for the very first time and will be in the same position as you.
Find out what interests you most
After attending a handful of programs, meetings, workshops and other initiatives, you’ll start to discover where your interests are and what you enjoy the most.
More and more organisations are seeking young people’s input into their work or are providing young people with opportunities to develop their knowledge and skills. The possibilities are endless so don’t be afraid to be part of this growing movement!