Goulburn Mulwaree Council is undertaking a social sustainability study to better understand the need for social services in its region, where there are gaps for vulnerable people in the community and how it might fund, partner or lobby for these services in the future.
A draft report is expected early this month and will go to council before being put on public exhibition for feedback, particularly given recommendations might involve other service agencies and not for profits delivering social services.
Sydney based Cred Consulting was contracted to conduct the study with a brief focusing on a needs assessment undertaken over a wide range of local community groups, council’s Business Manager of Strategic Planning, Kate Wooll said.
Council and Cred Consulting held public consultations throughout the region from May to June 2019, as well as stakeholder workshops, pop up stalls and a community stakeholder survey.
“Council’s goal was to undertake a meaningful, inclusive consultation process that allowed us to build a strong evidence base. We will now seek to deliver a strategic, actionable and measurable social plan that reflects local needs and aspirations,” Ms Wooll said.
Mission Australia has also undertaken consultations as part of its Goulburn Place Plan (GPP) project. GPP aims to strengthen community ties and ‘grow’ the aspirations of young people in the Goulburn region. One critical element of social sustainability is how a community meet the needs of its young people, particularly those who may be marginalized.
“We see that many young people we work alongside have a range of ambitions, but are facing some challenges. They might be experiencing any combination of issues relating to bullying, financial difficulty, health conditions, mental health issues, social isolation or family breakdown,” Mission Australia Area Manager Daniel Strickland said.
“We believe that when young people have access to the right supports, they embrace opportunities to grow.”
Under the GPP, Mission Australia and NSW Family and Community Services (FACS) work alongside the community living in social housing in Goulburn.
“Through the GPP, we collaborate with local organizations to deliver a range of initiatives, including fitness and wellbeing programs, cooking classes, drug and alcohol programs, and employment programs, and early childhood assessment and screening,” Mr Strickland said.
One example of this collaboration is the Police Citizens Youth Club (PCYC) Fighting Fit Program which supports 50 young people each week to improve their health and develop relationships within the community.
Programs are getting results, Mr Strickland said.
“We are hearing of some great success stories from the programs we partner with…for example we have heard many of the young people who are attending the Fit for Life program [early intervention program for at-risk youth] have increased their attendance rate and attitude at school, and overall performance.”
Recently, Mission Australia presented to Goulburn Mulwaree Council on the need for a youth hub, possibly located at the Goulburn PCYC, submitting that areas of Goulburn were growing without accompanying infrastructure. Mr Strickland said he welcomed the council discussion on the need for a dedicated youth space which could be funded through a council application to the NSW Stronger Communities Fund.
“We have seen that there is certainly a need across the Goulburn area for a dedicated youth space that is centrally located,” he said.
While the issues for young people generally reflect those that adults might experience, mental health problems were on the rise, Mr Strickland said.
Mission Australia’s 2016 youth survey – the largest online youth survey in Australia – found almost one in four young people in regional and remote Australia had a probable serious mental illness.
“While we see similar rates of people with mental health issues in and outside of major cities, our research shows that young people in regional and remote communities struggle to access the same level of support services as young people in urban areas,” Mr Strickland said.
“We need further investment in mental health and wellbeing programs in regional and remote areas for early years’ schooling, and holistic supports for young people across a range of needs during adolescence, including school or study problems.”
The Goulburn Mulwaree Council appointed a Youth Services Co-ordinator in October last year. One of the areas identified by the new coordinator for focus was mental health. The council has an MOU with Headspace to deliver programs in high schools and after school, and also collaborate with Goulburn’s PCYC.