Local young people should have a more direct say in decisions about the future of the Shire, a group of students has told Byron Council.
The Year 9 and 10 students from Mullumbimby High School addressed last week’s meeting as part of the YouthSay program, offering an all-too-rare insight into the views and concerns of local youth.
Among five key areas of priority identified by the students was the request for a youth council so that young people could make direct representations about the issues that mattered to them.
‘Young people have a unique point of view and we believe it should be included,’ Safiya Wilkinson told the Council meeting.
‘A youth council would give us a voice in a world where we are unheard,’ she said.
The key issues that the young leaders wanted to be heard on were better public transport, greater accessibility for people with disabilities, measures to reduce the impact of illegal camping, and improved housing affordability.
May Morgan said that the group recognised there were buses in the Shire, but that there weren’t enough services and they ran at irregular times.
This created safety issues because it meant many young people had to ride a bike or walk in the dark, and that some were forced to hitchhike.
‘What we would like to see is Byron Council presenting our ideas to bus companies and seeing if there are any other times that are available,’ May said.
‘We would like you to send surveys for people aged 12 to 25 to find out what bus times they need.
‘We would also like you to investigate the on-demand bus in Alstonville and see whether something like this would work in our Shire.’
Another key issue identified by the group was the amount of rubbish left by illegal campers.
‘The Shire has some of the highest tourism rates in the country… and in some cases that means people are illegally camping,’ May said.
‘When they do that they tend to dump their rubbish.
‘We would like the council to consider doing more public bin collection and working with local youth to organise volunteer rubbish collection.
John Ray called on Council to improve access for the five per cent of locals who have a disability by educating businesses and improving local footpaths and beach tracks, and Darci Winters raised the issue of housing affordability.
‘The Byron Shire has around 200 rough sleepers as of March which is a ridiculous number given that the entire City of Sydney local government area only has 270 rough sleepers.
‘Two ways to alleviate the housing shortage are to include housing affordability as a requirement for new developments, and addressing AirBnB which many towns and cities around the world have done.
‘This will help to return houses to the market and so lower prices.’
The school’s principal, Greg Armstrong said it was exciting to see some of the school’s top students having the opportunity to see things from a broader perspective.
‘This joint venture with the Council is something that we’re building and we think it’s really important,’ Mr Armstrong said.