Years ago when my 22-year-old daughter was a teenager, I searched tirelessly for a program that might suit her.
As a young person who was struggling with her identity and her place in the world and her community, I longed to find a place that offered her a breadth of experiences; that built her confidence through friendships and learning.
That inspired her to think about what kind of life she might like to live. The potential of the kind of person she could become.
At the time there was nothing.
But it seems my longing has paid off. Sitting in the heart of Byron Bay is Future Dreamers, a beautiful house that offers the haven of a home away from home as an inspirational hub for young girls aged 12–25.
This not-for-profit girls club facilitates workshops, events and unique experiences for teen girls and young women, inspiring them to be creative, confident and active members of their community.
The women at the centre of the project are as diverse as the girls they attract. It’s led by project visionary Leah Rettenmaier, CEO Catherine Hardman, co-founder and program facilitator and manager Grace Walters, program facilitator Eva King and Girls Club co-ordinator and facilitator Asuka Hara.
For Leah, who initially instigated the project, Future Dreamers was about her desire to ‘motivate teenage girls.
‘I have three girls,’ she says.
‘Where boys here gravitate to the surf, the girls tend to get lost. There were girls I was coming across who didn’t want to be at home with mum and dad and they didn’t want to be up in the park getting drunk.
‘I love the arts world and I wanted to bring the influences to the girls so they could have exposure to things and enjoy them on non-judg-mental terms. There is a natural pull away from the family unit as a teenager and there was nowhere for them to go. There was a gap in the community – adults and tourism get to access our incredible creativity, but young people were missing out. Future Dreamers was about providing access to creativity – and it’s all free.’
Grace Walters grew up in Byron. ‘Growing up in the area I would say as a young girl I was definitely unstimulated. It was a small town and you understood that if you wanted something out of your life you had to move away. Girls are at risk of being disengaged and unstimulated. I want something different for the girls of this community now.’
Future Dreamers is open from 9am till 6pm every day as a drop-in space for girls and young women.
They are able to come and use the kitchen, the bathroom, the internet, and to connect with the women and girls who are there. There is also an impressive workshop program that runs weekly, along with an extensive holiday program.
Upcoming winter school holiday events are running from Monday July 3 till Saturday July 15, as well as regular programs. To volunteer or to donate, visit futuredreamers.com.au or email [email protected]