Fitzroy Valley Futures (FVF) is a community-driven organisation working to create a bright future for the people of the Fitzroy Valley, Western Australia, including the 600 young people who live there.
Fitzroy Valley community members were growing concerned that local young people were at risk of disengaging from formal services, demonstrating anti-social behaviour and dropping out of school. Given these concerns, FVF sought to work with local stakeholders and young people to develop a youth engagement strategy to ensure the region’s young people, most of whom are Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander, could participate in the services they needed to be healthy and fulfilled in their home community.
After reviewing reports on demographics and service delivery in the region, we set to work connecting with the Valley community. To understand the complexities of delivering youth services, we conducted interviews and held workshops with local young people, services providers and agencies.
It was vital to connect with existing users of services and people at risk of falling through the cracks. We knew we could not rely on traditional engagement methods alone, so we enlisted the help of community navigators, used writing and drawing activities, and undertook a youth survey using virtual reality (VR) headsets.
The VR survey allowed participants to walk around in a virtual world. To answer survey questions, participants would walk up to question stations and drop a virtual ball into the bucket labelled with the answer that applied to them. The buzz generated by the technology ensured we reached more than 100 young people, making it possibly the region’s largest ever youth consultation.
The resulting youth engagement strategy built on the community’s strengths – including community leadership, strong language and lore, and rich cultural heritage – while focussing on ways to overcome the gaps and deficits in the current system. Systemic change takes time to translate into outcomes for young people, but encouraging steps are being taken as local stakeholders put our recommendations into operation.