09 February 2023


Senator AYRES (New South Wales—Assistant Minister for Trade and Assistant Minister for Manufacturing) (13:32): I rise to speak today about the youth advisory council at Nambucca Heads High School. Rural and regional communities are too often forgotten about, overlooked or dismissed in the public debate, particularly young people who live in those communities. Last week, I travelled to Nambucca to meet with the council, a diverse range of local kids in year 11 and year 12 who are supported by Becoming U, a place-based youth outreach organisation run by Uniting. The council is the first of its kind in the Nambucca Valley. While I was there, I asked these young men and women, 'What is the one thing that you really think needs to change in Nambucca?' The resounding answer from them was 'transport'. They have extremely overcrowded school buses, with three kids to a seat, students crammed up and down the aisles and school bags scattered everywhere. For them, it's not just a five-minute trip; for many, it's at least an hour-long bus ride to and from their rural homes. This is a daily reality for young people in that region just to get to school, let alone to travel between towns on the weekend.

These young people also want to have a say in the events that the town holds and the way it is planned, so that other young people can engage in their community the same way that they have. They met, trained and rehearsed, and they went to the local council—Nambucca Valley Council—and spoke up. It's a daunting experience for young people, but they are very impressive young people with very fine leadership qualities who are absolutely committed to their community. I urge the local council, and their colleagues in the state parliament as well, to listen to these young people and resolve the issues.

Finally, I thank the students, their community connector, Isabel, and the principal a of Nambucca Heads High School, Dot Panaretos, for welcoming me into the school. We can learn a lot from these young people.