First published with The Courier – http://www.thecourier.com.au/story/4449275/hearing-youth-voices/?cs=62

22-year-old Lauren Kerr is a member of the newly appointed Ballarat Youth Council.

She is one of 22 young people 12 to 25 years-of-age who have been elected to represent the views, ideas, and needs of young people in Ballarat.

Lauren is looking forward to continue work on a youth homelessness initiative during her second term on the Youth Council.

“One of my main concerns is people who are experiencing homelessness and don’t have access to affordable housing,” she said.

“YIHA, Youth Initiative for Housing Action, is an idea to create a community housing hub for a wide range of people.

“It’s one of the projects we will be working on this year.”

The team are planning a youth housing forum scheduled to take place in April to hear the thoughts of the community.

The Youth Council meet weekly, working to develop projects and campaigns, and advocate for young people in the Ballarat region.

Lauren said young people in Ballarat were missing a way to get their voice heard.

“Youth Council can provide that for people,” she said.

Seventeen year-old Youth Council member Brayden Crutchfield is taking action on issues of youth self-perception.

“Self-perception is a real issue that can lead to other mental health issues,” he said.

“We have funding for National Youth Week for a ‘self ease day’, with live music and inspirational speakers.

“It’s about being comfortable with yourself and making sure you are kind to yourself and your body.”

Ballarat City Council Mayor Samantha McIntosh said the Youth Council allowed young leaders to develop.

“It’s an opportunity for the future leaders of our city,” she said.

Cr McIntosh said the Youth Council allowed councilors to have a close relationship with young people.

“The Youth Council is a great voice for councilors to know what’s going on with young people in the community,” she said.

“Our youth have views and it’s important to be up to date with what they are thinking.”