Young people across the state are set to celebrate their achievements and raise awareness of social and environmental issues.
NSW Youth Week, which kicks off today, is encouraging thousands of participants to embrace the theme Connect.Participate.Celebrate.
Samaritans Reconnect and Homelessness Youth Assistance Program (HYAP) Team Leader Kathryn Manning said NSW Youth Week could help change the narrative around young people.
“We’re getting an awful lot of negative media where young people are stealing cars, breaking into homes, speeding, getting arrested – and that’s a challenge for those who are doing the right thing,” she said.
“There are a lot of young people who are overcoming massive challenges in their lives and excelling and becoming incredible individuals.
“We’ve got much to celebrate in young people, and, during NSW Youth Week, I’d like to see that sort of thing come to the front, where we celebrate the fact that we have such wonderful young people in society.
“Being a young person is extremely difficult, but I also think we’re seeing a breakthrough with many young people becoming more individualised and voicing their opinions in order to make changes in their lives that are more suited to them.”
Samaritans’ youth services, as part of Newcastle Anglican, offer extensive support to young people in Newcastle and surrounding areas.
These services help with everything from counselling, accommodation and parenting advice to drugs and alcohol and relationship support.
Reconnect – an early intervention program that supports and connects young people from falling into the cycle of homelessness – recently received a three-year funding extension as part of the Federal Government’s $91.7 million investment in addressing youth homelessness.
Ms Manning said housing affordability, access to mental health services, climate change, understanding and acceptance around gender diversity, social media and cyber bullying were major issues for young people.
“They are trying to break into a rental market that just keeps increasing,” she said.
“Many of them are living with other young people just to be able to afford to put a roof over their head.
“There are also long waits to see a mental health service and the expense is very difficult for them to cope with.
“Our services are there to help. It’s not about dictating to young people how or who they should be but saying to them: ‘This is you, let’s celebrate you as the person you are or support you to become the person you want to be.’”
NSW Youth Week celebrations will take place until Sunday 30 April.