Reinstate the Word and Mouth Youth Committee

Reinstate the Word and Mouth Youth Committee

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Alison White started this petition to Greater Shepparton City Council

Why change what works

Word and Mouth (WAM) is a youth-led and run committee that provides a voice for young people (aged 12-25) to lead, engage, create and shape their community. Established independently in 2002, the program has seen well over 300 young people create the change they wish to see for their area and learn vital social, project and event management skills in the process. 

Previously funded by the Sir Andrew and Lady Fairley Foundation, FReeZA State Government and Greater Shepparton City Council, the Youth Committee has become the sole youth engagement Committee for the Council. 

In 2020, the Council stopped all meetings and activities of the Word and Mouth Committee with no explanation. It wasn't until Council announced to the public on May 19th, 2021 that we learned our Youth Committee had been disbanded and replaced by a youth council of only 12 individuals. 

This is problematic for several reasons. First and foremost, Council has a current Youth Strategy and Action plan 2019-2023 that lists Word and Mouth directly as an objective for 3.5, 3.6 and 4.1 as well as being involved in 6 other objectives. This plan was developed after extensive community consultation and changing the WAM program structure without notice or consultation completely disregards the community's contribution to youth engagement. 

In 2020, our WAM Committee had expanded to include 31 members from diverse backgrounds, experiences, and outlooks on life. Restricting the new youth council to just 12 members drastically reduces the potential for diversity of individuals and opportunities for skill development.

Why change what was working - the WAM Youth Committee put on low-cost/free, drug, alcohol and smoke-free events that embraced the diverse range of local young people and engaged nearly 3000 individuals/year in a more creative way. Most noteworthy was the 2019 'Nerdmania' Comic Con Expo which brought 1468 people to Shepparton. Not only did these events provide a safe space where youth could enjoy themselves, they provided age-appropriate things to do instead of being bored and getting into trouble. 

Previous WAM alumni have said they wouldn't be who they are today without this program. From the shy kid who had trouble fitting in school, to a now confident young person, each individual is a part of the huge network of WAM graduates who share a passion to actively improve where they live.

We do not want to lose the respect our youth have for the WAM Committee, of which has taken members and staff nearly 20 years to develop. Council did not ask us what we as youth wanted and the new youth council provides no positively differing characteristics to the WAM Youth Committee. So again, why change what works?

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