Bendigo Youth Council deputy mayor encourages civic-minded uni students to step up

As Billie Taylor farewells her place on the Bendigo Youth Council, she reflects on the year well spent, advocating for the wellbeing, employability and engagement of young people, and learning much about herself in the process.

“This year in many ways was so valuable, but I also learnt that I need to reprioritise and have less going on to give myself more time for myself and for my studies,” she says.

The Bendigo Campus Bachelor of Psychological Sciences and Law student has just finished her second year of uni, and her second year on the Bendigo Youth Council. She says her time at the decision-making table for young people in Bendigo has been a valuable addition to her studies.

“I have become much more confident and I now stand up for myself when I believe in something or I believe something is unfair,” she says. “This personal development will be a big benefit for my future career and professional relationships.

“Some of my university work has also influenced my council work; a lot of what I learn from Law and Psychology about working well with others and the emotional dynamics really benefits me in my teamworking skills. I have also learnt a lot from working in teams, where things have gone badly and well, and I will take that with me into my career.”

Billie completed VCE at Bendigo Senior Secondary College then leapt straight into her studies at La Trobe.

“I was very happy to see my dream course offered in Bendigo, mainly so I could stay at home and keep my job and continue to see my friends,” she says. “It gave me a really good lifestyle and allowed me to continue to do the things I loved.”

Billie chose the course because it would give her the skills and knowledge to advocate for people’s rights, particularly those in marginalised communities.

“I have always been fascinated by psychology and learning about people, so I am very fortunate that I get to learn about very interesting parts of the human psyche. I have always been passionate about law, knowing that my career will support others in fighting for equity and their rights.”

That’s something Billie has been doing for many years. Prior to moving to Bendigo she was on the Youth Council of Wangaratta. “I loved the experience and the opportunity it gave me so I thought I would join the Bendigo Youth Council and continue my passion for youth leadership,” she says, adding she’s proud of the activities the council has initiated to support youth wellbeing, employability and engagement.

In its first two-year term the Youth Council has given input into over 20 city plans, strategies and policies and represented young people on over 10 advisory and steering committees including the Creative City of Gastronomy Advisory Committee, the Bendigo Safe Community Forum and the Economic Development Strategy.

“This year our team worked with YMCA and Headspace, where we ran an event with year 8s and 9s teaching them about the ‘5 Ways to Wellbeing’. I loved this opportunity to give young people some tips on how to take care of their own wellbeing and how to support their friends.”

Billie will now follow some of that advice herself.  

“Overall, I have been able to successfully develop a fairly good uni and volunteering balance. At times, however, it was quite difficult and I was spreading myself out fairly thin. I had more responsibilities being a Deputy Youth Mayor, but in hindsight I probably took on too many opportunities and commitments. I also work at Zambrero as a casual and I had other volunteering commitments too, so having to balance all those things, with trying to also have a social life and see family, was at times tough.”

Council experience open to all

The Bendigo Youth Council is now calling on other young people to put their hand up and take part.

“For those considering Youth Council, I would advise you that you can definitely have a good balance with your studies and council, just make sure your mental health and uni work comes first when taking up opportunities,” Billie says.

“If someone wanted to learn more about our local government and the growing role that young people play, I would recommend joining. If someone wanted to improve their skills in communication, teamwork, advocacy and public speaking, this is an incredible way to do that. If they wanted to meet more people who are passionate about community, and grow some great working relationships in and outside of the Youth Council, this is a terrific opportunity to meet some incredible organisations.

“Simply, you also learn a lot about what incredible things are happening in your community and often you get to become a part of it, which is one of the most valuable parts of being on Youth Council.”

Billie’s experience will no doubt help shape her future plans, of which she has many.

“I would love to work for an organisation that supports survivors of domestic violence, or to work in government in policy that advocates for the rights of others including women and children,” she says. “I’d also love to work as a State MP or potentially in an organisation like Headspace as a clinician or psychologist and support young people. Overall, although I have many ideas, I know I want to work in community and support others.”

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