FREMANTLE mayoral candidate Hannah Fitzhardinge wants to ramp up the city’s youth engagement mechanisms, saying their needs aren’t being heard.
“The City of Fremantle is really good until you reach 14, with the library, playgrounds and things like that, but we start losing people when they’re 14 to 16 and only get them back when they have children,” Cr Fitzhardinge said.
She wants a youth mayor as a regular shadow and the Youth Advisory Council involved across a range of council areas – not just planning skate parks and pump tracks.
Cr Fitzhardinge says the council could do more to support existing groups focused on youth, and says giving them access to space in the new Walyalup Civic Centre during quiet periods could be a good start.
White Gum Valley medical student and skateboarding instructor Rowan White was involved in planning the Esplanade Youth Plaza and said being involved was a great thrill.
“It was such a cool experience really, just the amount of kickback was huge,” Mr White says of the often grey-haired opposition the skate park faced.
“It gave us the opportunity to stand up and talk about what we wanted … and seeing how many people came together to push and fight for it was amazing.”
But since then he’s noticed the engagement has petered out – funding for skateboarding workshop regularly runs out.
“All the events there are by skate brands; it did go a bit quiet,” he said.
But he’s currently involved in the 20Talk mental health initiative with founders Lachlan O’Donoghue and Leighton Bradfield.
They currently run music events and hold workshops and say chatting to the 500-600 youngsters that turn up it’s clear many in the southern suburbs have no idea how to access services.
The trio want to establish a “mental health first aid hub” for young people in Freo and hope Cr Fitzhardinge’s program can help them find an available space.
But Cr Fitzhardinge says there’s another elephant in the room in terms of the city’s engagement with young people and other diverse groups – civility.
She says social media attacks on anyone who puts their hand up for public service is a huge deterrent to younger people.
“Social media is not helpful when it comes to genuine conversations with people. It’s often an echo chamber, where name-calling, shaming, trolling find their home. The idea is very simple: we cannot build up the city we love, by tearing each other down.”