We scour the local papers so we can share with you what is happening in Gippsland East – there are some fabulous young people achieving and exploring so much! If you recognise any of these names of stories, please feel free to share with your networks – and don’t forget to watch out for updates on our Twitter as well!

Youth ambassadors head to Parliament

The East Gippsland youth ambassadors are back at it again!

They’ve got their debating caps on, slicked back haircuts and are ready to make a difference under the roof of the Parliament of Victoria.

The passionate team of six has been working tirelessly over the past few weeks, researching, developing and creating a bill, which they will be debating in parliament in only a few weeks as part of YMCA Victoria Youth Parliament.

The bill, titled Healthy Alternatives to Current School Punishments Bill 2017, addresses the alarming trends of student disengagement, students partaking in risk-taking or anti-social behaviours and the rapidly increasing rates of school-leavers.

Youth ambassador chairman, Brodee Turner, said the ideas that the team holds aren’t just about politics and procedure but more about wellbeing and the future.

“The team’s vision of the bill explores a space that wouldn’t only affect the youth of today but the youth for many generations to come. The East Gippsland team is set to commence debating from July 3 to 6 in Parliament House on Spring Street.

“To stand at the steps of innovation, to look forward unto a better, brighter future. To be a part of all that and more, that’s what it means to be a member of Youth Parliament,” Brodee said.

The YMCA Victoria Youth Parliament is a program designed to give young Victorians between the ages of 16-25 a chance to be heard at the highest levels of state government on a wide range of issues relevant to young people’s lives.

Twenty teams of six participants receive training in public speaking, parliamentary etiquette and leadership at residential camps, as they research issues that they’re passionate about. From this research they develop a Bill, which they debate in the Parliament of Victoria over three days each July.

Bairnsdale Advertiser, July 3, 2017


Local plumber is awarded

LOCAL plumber Adam Helmke has been recognised as employee of the year at a recent trans-Tasman conference held in Cairns.

The annual Laser Plumbing and Electrical Conference was attended by 600 plumbers and electricians from Australia and New Zealand who, as well as recognising the achievements of the businesses and individuals, also works with a local charity.

This year Adam, with 120 other plumbers and electricians, converged on the Salvation Army-run Centennial Lodge in Cairns which provides crisis accommodation for homeless people and victims of domestic violence.

Volunteers replaced roofing and guttering, faulty shower heads and taps as well as light fittings and switchboards.

Adam is employed by Laser Plumbing Sale and Traralgon.

Reaching the finals, he was up against five other staff members and was recognised for his commitment, high level of stakeholder engagement and his quality of work.

His nomination by his employer Dan Smolenaars was supported by references from his clients.

Adam also credited his fellow workers.

“Without them I am unable to do my job,” he said.

Gippsland Times, July 4, 2017


Helping Animal Aid

A GROUP of year 10 Victorian Certificate of Applied Learning Foundation students from Gippsland Technical College has built a kennel and raised donations for Animal Aid, Fulham.

The 15 students unanimously decided to do something for the shelter as part of this term’s community-based project, and put up signs all over campus encouraging people to donate pet food, blankets and toys.

The kennel will be put to use in the shelter’s yards, and was test driven by Border Collie Ruby last week.

Karen Kitto from Federation Training said the school had supported Animal Aid for a number of years as part of the curriculums personal development and work-related skills units, and to give the students a sense of community awareness.

“They get something out of it. I felt proud of them — they’re great kids,” she said.

Animal Aid manager Debby Goddard said all donations were appreciated at the shelter.

“This sort of help is really great,” she said.

“At this time of year, we need as much as we can get, we’ve got a lot of animals, particularly cats.”

Ms Goddard said the shelter was in desperate need of kitten food, such as Whiskas food sachets, after a long kitten season.

To donate to Animal Aid, visit www.animalaid.org.au or phone the shelter on 5144 5940 to find out what the shelter needs most.

Gippsland Times, July 4, 2017


Hub lease discussion

Executive officer of Gippsland East Local Learning and Employment Network (GELLEN), Jane Panting, has met with concerned Bairnsdale U3A committee members to explain changes proposed under new lease arrangements for U3A’s activities at The Hub.

GELLEN now manages The Hub in Dalmahoy Street on behalf of East Gippsland Shire. During last week’s talks, it was explained that U3A could ask for the same exclusive rights it currently has for each room used, but at a cost three times of that of a ‘shared’ room.

How to manage U3A assets, valued at $30,000, to support its activities which U3A keeps in the rooms for each class to function with minimum preparation by the class leaders, remained an open question.

Whether other third party users would pay if they used those U3A assets was not addressed.

GELLEN wanted U3A to relinquish room 20 currently used on several days each week by music appreciation, French intermediate, Italian and craft your writing, book clubs and other classes, and the room 23 computer training room.

During school holidays there would be potential use of the current U3A designated shared rooms for other groups wishing to hire from GELLEN.

GELLEN will manage the whole site to bring efficiencies of scale in matters relating cleaning and other services, providing a benefit to all users.

The Hub project is a work in progress and GELLEN said it would endeavour to be sensitive to U3A’s occupation requirements within its own policy goals.

Costings and charges for these services were a work in progress and would be revealed as soon as finalised, the committee was told.

The approximately one hour session was an opportunity to explain GELLLEN’s position and intentions and for the U3A committee members to engage on the vital matter of U3A occupancy.

“The session was fact finding and committee members need time to think about the impact of these changes,” U3A president, Bernard West, said.

U3A has scheduled its annual general meeting for Monday, August 14, at which Ms Ponting has agreed to be guest speaker.

A presentation will then be made followed by a Q&A session to enable members to ask questions on this important matter.

The U3A committee said it wants a large attendance of members to hear Ms Panting and to attend the AGM of which announcements will be made at the appropriate time.

Mr West said it was useful for Ms Ponting to meet with the committee.

“Jane has offered to meet with whenever required. U3A’s hope is that the integration of these changes will take place with little disruption,” he said.

“There is, however, a lot for U3A’s committee and its members to consider. U3A activities take place on the same time schedule as the Victorian school term schedules and will therefore be closed during the school holidays re-opening on July 17.

“There is a lot to ponder and think about on this important topic, not least that if U3A wants exclusive use under the present tariff there will be an astronomical cost increase.”

East Gippsland News, July 5, 2017


Claire helps to educate

Former Nagle College student, Claire Anderson, is establishing a project to give street children an education through her human rights volunteer work in Ghana.

Claire, who graduated from Nagle College in 2011, said there are half a million children in Ghana who do not receive any type of education and it is estimated that 61,000 children are growing up on the streets of Accra.

“I have been spending my days working in the poorest slum communities of Accra, and help give the children an education. This is not possible without funds,” Claire said.

“Parents cannot afford to give their child an education and therefore most children in this village will be working as fisherman from a very young age, a hazardous job in Ghana.

“It costs 25 US dollars to send a child to school for a year in Ghana. So little, yet it is an unrealistic sum for those who earn the bare minimum or have no income.”

Claire is raising both awareness and money for these African children, and says all funds raised will be directly spent on helping to put street children into school, as well as working with local schools to fund resources and school fees for children.

“Your donation will put all the children I have been working with in the slums into a school. I will be taking them and enrolling them myself into school and remaining in contact with the schools to ensure the children continue to attend school,” Claire said.

Read more about this cause and where you can donate at the Just Giving website, searching for Claire Anderson.

Claire has been studying a bachelor of international relations in Melbourne and also volunteers at a refugee centre in Melbourne educating refugees and finding work placements for them.

Bairnsdale Advertiser, July 7, 2017


Students take on Youth Parliament

LOCAL students presented a bill into Youth Parliament last week outlining a proposed recycling scheme for Victoria.

Students Emily Field, Olive Capurso, Nicole Danks, Samuel Fankhauser, Timothy Valette and Jordan Rowand, from the Wellington Shire municipality, participated in the 31st YMCA Victorian Youth Parliament program.

The Victorian Container Deposit Scheme Bill proposed that ‘reverse vending machines’ should be introduced in Victoria, to allow residents to deposit recyclables in the machines and, in return, receive a remittance in the form of vouchers.

The bill aims to save money, decrease litter, save resources such as energy and water, and cut greenhouse gasses.

According to proponent Olive Capurso, the scheme is needed.

“There is no question about it; we need this scheme,” she said.

Emily Field is also passionate about her team’s proposal. She believes Victoria needs to change its attitudes towards waste management.

“The current systems have been in place for however long and nothing has changed, she said.

“Looking at other states, you can see that this is a way we can improve that and create a better Victoria.”

The team has been working on its bill since March.

While it has been challenging, team members have found Youth Parliament to be extremely beneficial.

Nicole Danks said the program provided a “great experience”.

“I definitely recommend it,” she said.

“It boosts your confidence with public speaking; you get to meet a lot of great people and improve so many different skills.

“It’s a great opportunity for everyone.”

Through training camps and weekends spent working together, Youth Parliament teams from across Victoria each decide on a topic they are passionate about, and take a bill to debate in the state parliament.

Examples of other topics debated in Youth Parliament this year include the re-categorisation of dyslexia as a disability in Victorian schools and the improvement of services for transgender and gender diverse Victorians.

However, the program is not only about preparing for and adhering to parliamentary standards.

Jordan Rowand said the program had a much bigger reach.

“Being around 120 other young passionate people who care about something and want change, it kind of inspires you and encourages you to become interested in local change,” said Ms Rowland.

Timothy Valette agreed. “I really enjoyed the program,” he said.

“Our bill passed which was good, even though it was a very close call.”

While the experience doesn’t have the team pursuing a career in state politics, Nicole Danks said the program was breaking down barriers.

“There’s definitely a stigma around politics and young people,” said Ms Danks.

“A lot of young people aren’t interested in it, and doing something like this can change your perspective.

“We’ve been opened to all the different opportunities in parliament and how you’ll have a voice that be more likely heard.”

— Lucy Andrews
Gippsland Times, July 11, 2017


`Calmer Classrooms’ push

Youth ambassadors of East Gippsland, after successfully passing their bill of mandatory entrepreneurship classes in secondary schools last year, have once again brought forward a powerful bill to the YMCA Youth Parliament of Victoria.

The team’s bill, titled ‘Introducing Alternative School Disciplinary Actions’, aims to alter current disciplinary methods, such as expulsions and suspensions, within Victorian schools.

For team member, Faith Ferhad, it is an issue that is very close to her heart.

Faith was first suspended in year 10 when she had just moved to Victoria. She was finding it hard to settle in and school suspensions led to her being further disengaged from her school.

Faith started skipping lunchtimes and classes. Suddenly, she started doubting the importance of school altogether.

“Why should I be at school when my suspension was a way to relax at home?”

This carried on throughout year 10 and affected her greatly in year 11. She was unprepared, felt isolated and alone.

“We spend most of our youth in school. Schools should be as engaging and proactive as possible,” Faith said.

With the implementation of the bill, teacher training will be provided where sessions will focus upon the ‘Calmer Classrooms’ and the ‘Gateway Project’, so it is an evidence-based training that minimises exclusions and promotes positive alternatives for the troubled students.

The bill aims to create a positive change for students in situations like Faith’s. The proposed legislation would help students avoid becoming disengaged and disinterested in schooling.

“Healthy alternatives to current school punishments are clearly the way forward, it is the way upward,” team member, Brodee Turner, stated when introducing the bill to Youth Parliament.

Concerns were raised by the opposition “that the removal of any student from the school environment, serves to protect any victims of the actions of the student being suspended. That the purpose and merits of school punishments such as suspension have been ignored by the bill.”

But the team hopes that by providing a more holistic approach to education, students are less likely to view school in a negative way and that such suspension or expulsion won’t be necessary.

The bill was heavily debated in the Youth Parliament, with the team from East Gippsland proudly representing their community.

The team’s bill did not pass the Youth Parliament, but it was a very close vote with 27 votes for and 30 votes against.

“The ultimate goal should be to get the students an education, and suspending students doesn’t contribute to that goal,” team member, Cherisa Oosthuizen, said.

Bairnsdale Advertiser, July 17, 2017


Community in a healthy Headspace

Returning from a Communities in Control conference at the end of May, Headspace community engagement officer, Kirsten Van Diggele, and Gippsland East LLEN program coordinator, Pam Waters, are pumped to make the communities of Bairnsdale and East Gippsland as vibrant and healthy as can be.

A thousand delegates from Australia and New Zealand attended the two-day event in Melbourne, challenged to consider the question, ‘What makes a healthy community?’

Among the 1000 attendees were 12 scholarship recipients, Kirsten being one of them.

Established in 2003, the annual conference is an enterprise of Our Community Group, which brings together community sector workers, volunteers and supporters to listen, debate, network, exchange tips and strategies, and – perhaps most importantly – recharge.

The Communities in Control principles are for communities to survive and thrive they must be in charge of their own destinies and they must have the practical support they need to set their own priorities, design their own approaches, and create their own solutions. When these two principles are met, communities will be stronger, safer, healthier and more vibrant.

“This year was the first year that they advertised scholarships for young people to attend the conference,” Pam said.

“I’ve gone to the last three conferences, and it is a really good conference.

“Part of our role at LLEN is to support young people. We’re about working with young people and keeping them engaged in education, so young people are our focus.

“We decided that we need to find a young person who has given a lot to the community. Consequently, Kirsten was the one we nominated.

“She has been a youth ambassador, and a range of different things, often in a voluntary capacity, for young people in the region, so I thought she was the ideal candidate.”

“The conference was about what makes healthy communities and we wanted to take that information back in our jobs in community development,” Kirsten said.

“As the community engagement officer here at headspace I found the information really interesting and different, because it was very broad in comparison to other trainings I have done.

“Pam chose me because I have done quite a bit in this community in my past employment. I used to work for the shire, where I set up the Youth Ambassador committee, I used to volunteer for FReeZA, and now I’m on the Bairnsdale Show committee to try and get the youth voice happening to reinvigorate the event.

“We went down to the conference together, which was great, and it’s great for us to work together, because we do vocation and education work at headspace, too. We’ve only been open for three months and I’m sure we’ll work with LLEN on many projects in the future.”

Gippsland East LLEN recently took over the lease at the East Gippsland Community and Education Hub, and to the four staff there, that’s a big deal.

“It’s all about community,” Pam said.

“And that’s what this conference was all about. It’s about working with community. We’re now the overseers of the hub and we want people to know that we’re there, that it’s available to use. It’s about building the capacity of the community.”

In nominating Kirsten for a scholarship, Pam said that it acknowledges the benefits of working with young people, and in doing so Kirsten has brought back new knowledge and tools to use in working with youth in the Bairnsdale and East Gippsland area.

It was during her time as youth engagement officer at the shire that Kirsten got to know Pam and the pair have worked together on a number of occasions.

“It was probably more my role as a community person than as someone who works at Headspace that saw me nominated by Pam and the LLEN for the scholarship,” Kirsten said.

“Kirsten is a young woman who has done a lot, even in her study,” Pam said.

Studying a bachelor of community health at Swinburne University, Kirsten still lived in Bairnsdale and would commute to Melbourne for the first two years.

“I used to commute and stayed here to continue with all the committees I was on here,” Kirsten said.

“I didn’t want to drop them, so I would live here and travel one or two days a week to study. I ended up with five days a week of uni in my third year, so I just could not commute, so for that year I gave it a rest.

“But I would come back and help with the youth forum and the festivals and things like that.”

“At the LLEN, too, we do a lot of community events for young people, basing a lot of it around careers, aspirational things,” Pam said.

“We have an inspiring young women’s and men’s event coming up (July 26), which we are working on with East Gippsland Shire and Federation Training, inviting business leaders to come and talk to young people, aiming to build the aspirations of young people in our community.”

“Events such as that are really valuable for young people,” Kirsten said.

“It’s nice that the LLEN offers those sorts of insights into careers that are available locally.

“A lot of people have the idea that they have to move away.

“In a field like mine, for example, there is so much work available.

“Perhaps not full-time work, though, and that is an issue.”

Kirsten says it’s important that people are willing and open to change, to listen to the voice and their ideas.

The Communities in Control conference is about challenging the status quo.

“The inspirational speakers encouraged us to think perhaps a little differently about our approach to healthy communities,” Kirsten said.

“We took away the reinforced idea that we can make change,” Pam said.

‘We just have to get communities involved. For example, at the Hub we want to change how it is at the moment and make it a more community focused place.

“It’s about accepting change and making change happen. Getting the right people on board to make it happen, too.”

“For me it’s thinking about a more holistic approach, not just young people, but the whole; young people, old people and how we can all make a difference,” Kirsten said.

“Why would one organisation work separately to another when we can work together. Teamwork.”

“It’s about valuing everybody,” Pam said.

“Accepting the wisdom and working and acknowledging young people,” the pair agreed.

“A lot of young people feel their point of view is irrelevant, that old people don’t really take them seriously,’ Kirsten said.

“Young people can be so innovative with their ideas. Sometimes they can be really out there and a little unrealistic, but in general, they have very smart ways and ideas of what to do next.

“There are some great ideas coming from them, if only people paid attention.”

LLEN not only works on keeping young people engaged to year 12 completion but also working with those who are disengaged and trying to get them reengaged into education or work.

“We have broadened a little though, and just recently we were awarded a grant to work with primary schools and The Smith Family,” Pam said.

“Statistics are saying that you can tell if a young person will disengage from as young as grade three, so what we’re trying do now is work with them at a younger age to keep them engaged. with funding through FRRR (Foundation for Rural and Regional Renewal) for a number of activities in term three.”

Kirsten and Pam consider some of the main issues facing youth in East Gippsland to include: boredom, unemployment and underemployment (lack of full-time employment), a lack of tertiary options (local TAFE has limited course options) and transport.

“There are heaps of problems but there are also really great things, too,” Kirsten said.

“Having youth committees is great. Now we have the youth ambassadors, youth advisory group, FReeZA committee – none of them existed here four years ago.

“We’re creating more youth events, getting their voice out there.

“Young people here have such good com-munity spirit. They look out for one another. It’s beautiful in such a small community.

“But if you are the excluded young person rather than the included young person, that’s really tough.

“Every community has its downfalls, and it’s those in this community that we aim to address.”

East Gippsland News, July 26, 2017