For as long as I can remember, I’ve been a part of an engaged and proactive community. In Rodney, we foster the type who don’t tend to shy away from putting their hand up to bring about positive change. If there’s one thing I’ve noticed – having been actively involved in community over the past decade – it’s that as a young person, I’m a rarity. You never quite get used to the look of disbelief on people’s faces when they see someone who doesn’t hold a Super Gold Card enter the room. Jokes aside, for as much as that reaction is currently considered a ‘norm’ when it comes to community-related projects, meetings and events, I don’t see why it has to be that way.
We need to ask ourselves, and I say ‘we’ because I may only be 22 but it’s safe to say, when it comes to locally-based initiatives, I’m now considered seasoned – why aren’t we doing more to engage the future decision makers of our society? To me, it doesn’t make much sense because in reality what we have is an asset, that at present, is under valued and under utilised. If we wish to encompass the true vision and harness the full potential of our communities, there must be a change in approach.
Truth is, it’s not that young people don’t want to be involved, because from my experiences they are more than willing and able. It’s that we have failed to target this key demographic in a way that’s relatable and familiar to them. We must create welcoming and inclusive environments that are forward-thinking, relevant and, above all, accepting of ideas and different points of view. Even though that may challenge our own level of comfort.
So, if you’re currently involved in planning a project or event, or are a part of a community group or a residents and ratepayers association, I implore you to self-evaluate. Ask yourself, are you merely ticking the box when it comes to engaging our young people? What can you do differently to move away from the conventional, and assist in bringing new life to the direction we in the wider Warkworth area, are heading. It’s as simple as this: provide the next generation with the right tools and a safe platform, and watch what happens.