ZEST Ambassador and Youth  Action’s Western Sydney Coordinator takes a moment to share the highlights of her year and her perspective on Western Sydney’s amazing young people.

What has happened for you this year? What were the highlights?

2017 has been an epic year!

Highlights would have to include the What’s Up West event we held for young community change makers just recently, at Western Sydney University in November. It was a huge event: we brought together hundreds of young people aged between 12 and 25 with the aim to inspire, empower and equip them to be active leaders in their communities.

With Western Sydney’s incredible growth right now there is a significant amount of change happening extremely fast – but the decisions that are being made in the region don’t always engage young people. We want to make sure they are involved and empowered to create and contribute to change. Youth Action is now supporting those young people to be active community advocates.

Another highlight was exploring Youth Unemployment in Western Sydney, in a study and report which we then took to Canberra, delivering those findings to Departmental and Parliamentary heads to make sure it was on their agenda. You can see what we did in the full report here. 

We also spoke with close to 900 young people, via survey and throughout our network, to tell us what makes them smile about living in Western Sydney. We had a really great response that gave a hugely positive perspective on what’s great about growing up in Sydney’s west, which challenged some persistent stereotypes. You can check out that report here. 

Looking forward to 2018?

Youth Action is an ambitious organisation and 2018 is going to be bigger and better than ever. A major focus will be amplifying the voices of young people to tell their own stories and make sure they’re involved in the decision-making processes that will impact the region forever.

Where does ZEST 2018 fit for you, from a youth perspective?

Western Sydney’s identity is distinctive because it is so fluid – it defies a fixed definition. ZEST really communicates the spirit of the community in that way – it brings together a vibrancy and diversity that goes right across all ages and areas – that’s what shapes a strong community.

The ZEST Awards showcase the amazing contributions of groups like Outburst! Western Sydney Youth Action Group, who were ZEST Award Winners in 2017 in the Outstanding Youth Led Project in Greater Western Sydney, for the Friend2Friend project – a youth-led peer to peer mental health initiative, run by our passionate volunteers: good people doing good things and a great example of the ZEST spirit!

Would you like to shout-out to anyone?

Yes! I want to shout out to all the dedicated community sector people who are working hard to do great things with young people in Western Sydney: To me, you are the unsung heroes of our region. Your passion and ability to get things done is what makes Western Sydney one of the best places to live in Australia!