Real life learning gives voice to youth

Youth advocacy group members Jolie May, Olivia Hoger and Jemima Harman. Photo: Rob Maccoll

By Margaret Maccoll

Noosa’s environment has a new group of protectors in the Noosa Youth Advocacy Group formed by the Noosa Environmental Education Hub (Noosa EEHub).

Aimed at providing a platform for Noosa’s young people to present their views on community issues the group, represented by students from Good Shepherd Lutheran College, St Andrews Anglican College and Sunshine Beach State High School was officially launched on Wednesday at Noosa’s Community Environment and Sustainability Group Forum.

Noosa EEHub started its school extension programs last year after receiving seed-funding from the Noosa Biosphere Reserve Foundation and the advocacy group has received some funding from a Noosa Council Environment grant.

Noosa EEHub co-director Dalia Mikhail said the students’ keen interest in environmental issues such as climate change and emissions reduction was a driver of projects studied.

Ms Mikhail said the Noosa EEHub took kids out of the classroom to engage then in real life leaning experiences.She said their projects included Noosa District High School students investigating the health of the waterway within the school grounds and other students conducting research on bushland at Peregian Beach damaged by last year’s fire.

“The bushfire was so relevant. Now they have a good understanding of bushfire and what impact it has on the environment,“ she said.

Advocacy group members Jolie May, Olivia Hoger and Jemima Harman agreed hands on learning from their local environment was much more relevant to them and was more important to getting them in touch with the community.

“Students feel they have a voice. It’s so personal,“ they said.

The Advocacy Group’s program is designed by the students and provides a mechanism for them to raise their concerns and be responded to directly by council staff or councillors.

“This Group provides our youth with engagement on key council strategies, such as the Climate Change Response Plan,“ Ms Mikhail said.

The students said they were looking forward to learning more about rising sea levels in Noosa and its impact on the community.

After leaning about sea level rises in Venice this year they will be able to better relate to studies involving their local environment.

She said Noosa councillors Brian Stockwell, Amelia Lorentson and Tom Wegener had been very supportive of the initiative.“The world is changing at such pace that now more than ever the informed voice of our youth needs to be heard when developing key policies and plans that affect their future opportunities. While you have to be 18 to vote, all teenagers can actively and meaningfully participate in our local democracy,” Cr Brian Stockwell said.

Ms Mikhail said plans were underway to present a Youth Climate Summit as part of council’s Climate Week in March 2021 as well as provide feedback on some key strategies such as the Queensland Government’s surfing reserves survey and sustainable transport solutions.

Noosa Biosphere Reserve Foundation chair Rex Halverson said the Noosa Youth Advocacy Group would provide an important perspective that had been missing on decisions affecting how we live and interact within our Noosa Biosphere. “We look forward to inviting a youth rep to join our advisory board in the new year,” he said.

The Noosa EEHub invites other interested youth representatives to make contact and is seeking corporate sponsors to help grow this program. Interested parties can visit