Mayors determined to help our young people

By Kimberley Price

MURRAY River Council mayor Chris Bilkey says youth unemployment is one of his ‘‘major concerns’’.

Following the alarming findings of the Brotherhood of St Laurence report, Cr Bilkey said his team had a strong focus on getting youth involved in the workforce.

“We have a focus to find solutions for young people and bringing business to the area.

‘‘We are busily trying to attract businesses to Moama and so far we are succeeding having sold the majority of our industrial area and establishing a new area.’’

Cr Bilkey said it was important to retain and encourage workers – especially young workers – into agriculture careers.

‘‘There are challenges in the agricultural industry on both sides of the border which are making the difficulties more acute,’’ he said.

‘‘There are difficulties finding and retaining employees in the industry. Keeping people involved in the agriculture industry is one of our challenges and we are very supportive of the agriculture centre at Moama Anglican Grammar School for doing this.

‘‘It would be far better if the agriculture industry had a better long-term outlook.’’

To combat the high rates of youth unemployment, MRC has created a specific role to deal with the issue.

‘‘We have a youth services officer in the council whose focus is to work with young people in assisting them with unemployment,’’ Cr Bilkey said.

‘‘This assistance comes in the form of improving a person’s skill set and researching the opportunities available.

‘‘We need to retain young people in our town and we can do that by improving opportunities for further education here and improving the breadth of employment opportunities.’’

Campaspe Shire mayor Adrian Weston echoed his concerns.

‘‘We certainly understand that youth unemployment is not unique to our region as it’s occurring across Australia,’’ he said.

‘‘There are a lot of youth travelling to Bendigo and beyond for tertiary education and then not coming home to work which is a loss for the community.’’

While Campaspe Shire has implemented youth focused initiatives, Cr Weston stressed the problem wasn’t a quick fix.

‘‘There is nothing direct we can do except to listen to the voice of our youth,’’ he said.

‘‘We have implemented a Youth Advisory Group to help us understand the issues specific to young people.

‘‘We continue to encourage local businesses to think about employing more youth.’’