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Amplify Blog - Reflections on being a Youth Advocate

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Amplify Blog - Reflections on being a Youth Advocate

Amplify Blog

Amplify Blog by QFCC Youth Advocate Sarah


Being a young person right now is challenging, infuriating…but also empowering. Being a young person in Cairns is a totally different ball game. Cairns is a city full of life and full of young people that want to be heard. 

From the 21 – 24 March I travelled to Cairns with QFCC Youth Participation staff to promote Youth Advocate recruitment.

We heard from stakeholders that there are young councils and advocacy groups that are already up and running. There is a clear yearning to be heard, to have a voice and to make change. 

Cairns is often seen as a tourism spot, a cultural hub and a backpacker’s paradise. Whilst it is all these things, it is also my hometown and the home of many young people who don’t want to be left behind. 

Whilst leaving for the big smoke (aka Brisbane) is often a pathway for young people from Cairns, there is a way to stay connected - advocating for a better Queensland, using your experiences in Cairns. 

When my family moved to Brisbane, I didn’t imagine I’d be coming back to Cairns as a Youth Advocate. It was wonderful to reconnect with my roots and breathe in tropical air. 

We visited the Safer Streets Team who spoke to us very frankly about the Youth Justice issues. We also spoke about the importance of not having youth advocates as tokens of youth participation. In my experience, being a Youth Advocate has been meaningful and empowering - I feel involved and heard. Plus, most of the opportunities are paid, which is great when being a young person often comes with bills to pay. 

We visited Cairns Regional Council who have their own exciting things in the works. I wish I had these opportunities when I was growing up here - young people in Cairns deserve everything possible to put themselves at the forefront of decision making in Queensland. 

We also visited the Chamber of Commerce where I reconnected with my families past of running a small business here in Cairns. Whilst it’s difficult to realise how much change the city has gone through without us it’s wonderful to see that young people are becoming a part of the conversation. The Emerging Leaders Program and Cairns Youth Chamber sounded fantastic. There is a bright and talented future ahead for this seaside city. 

Of course, we are here whilst the reforms surrounding youth justice are being formed. Youth crime in any city is concerning, but here you can feel a tension in the air. As a young person, what I can say is that I hope my generation isn’t left behind, and that both offenders and victims get the support they need. 

My colleague, First Nations woman, Sarah-Kate told me the story that the mountains forming Yarrabah are formed like a crocodile. When I was a child, I thought that these mountains were actually the top of Australia. So, I saw Cairns in a new light - ferocious like a Crocodile ready to go and ready for change. 

In Mareeba, we met with a passionate First Nations young woman, and the team at PCYC. It was difficult to digest how some children grow up, and to think that when I was 13 I didn’t need to worry about housing, access to technology or mental health support. The trip to Mareeba was not the first time I have heard about the dark mental health crisis taking over smaller towns. What was stark about the experience was that Mareeba is not necessarily in the middle of nowhere, it’s just a hop and a skip away from Cairns. I couldn’t help but question why are young people in the regions constantly being left behind?