Wagga City Council has announced the latest addition to its team, and her job is all about helping the city’s next generation of leaders shine.
Vanessa Jennings brings a wealth of experience to her new role as a youth engagement officer, which is all about making Wagga a place where young people feel like an equal part of the community.
“Young people make up approximately 20 per cent of our community population and, whilst we see a high level of young people move into Wagga through our university and RAAF and Army base, we also see a high number of young people who finish their schooling move outside of our area,” Ms Jennings said.
“Our young people are our future leaders and it is important they have a strong voice in shaping the city and hopefully, because it is a place they love and feel a strong sense of connection to, remain in or return to it.”
Ms Jennings’ role was created after the council resolved to work on youth engagement and leadership as a key area of development in June 2017.
Our young people are our future leaders and it is important they have a strong voice in shaping the city.Vanessa Jennings
Following that resolution, about 400 people aged between 12 and 25 were asked what types of events and initiatives they would like to see more of and get involved with in Wagga.
When the survey came back, the results were clear – music, sport, and festivals were three of the top areas Wagga’s youth wanted to see more of to make the city a more vibrant place.
Under the new initiative, young people will be able to come forward, pitch their ideas in these areas and beyond to the council, and help to make them a reality with the assistance of an annual funding pool of $15,000 set aside for youth-led projects.
Ms Jennings has hit the ground running, meeting with the city’s young leaders this week to launch a new social media platform to help make the program work.
“On Wednesday, after mayor Greg Conkey hosted a breakfast with school leaders, a Facebook and Instagram page called ‘Wagga Youth’ went live,” she said.
“These sites will be used to share key events and activities for young people, link young people to opportunities, and as a forum for council to run polls and hear the ideas and aspirations of the youth of our city.”