By Lawrence Machado
WHILE the future of Parramatta PCYC is uncertain, the YMCA has teamed with Westfield Parramatta to provide a drop-in centre for local young people.
The organisations have launched a pop-up youth space at Westfield where Gen Z can hang out, recharge, meet new people and seek support from a youth worker.
The Y NSW Youth Outreach and Inclusion co-coordinator Elise Kellett said there has been a need for this space where Gen Z can feel safe and shape the space. They can even run their own workshops for which they are paid, due to a partnership with the Information and Cultural Exchange.
“Youth unemployment rate in NSW is incredibly high and our space provides upskilling and workshops in first aid and white card (used for construction sites, musical and event managements) thanks to Licences 4 Work,” Kellett said.
“Our staff help the youth with resumes and even understanding what a job requires.
“Because of Covid, many youth have been telling us they have no jobs or no schools and are wandering in the streets and could get into trouble.
“I have lived in Parramatta all my life and this is the first time we have had a drop in place for youth and I wish I had something like this.”
“Being at Westfield, we are able to talk with some of the businesses there regarding possible job opportunities with Kmart being great at responding.”
Y NSW has been running programs in public spaces including Streetgym at Telopea and Constitution Hill and the Parramatta Library for years, but this is the first time there is a dedicated youth space.
But Kellett said their work is quite different to what is offered at PCYC but said they complement each other.
“PCYC focus on physical aspects in engaging with the youth and do a great job,” Kellett said.
“At this space, we have conversations with the youth and offer them upskilling and other opportunities.”
The new initiative gets the nod from Parramatta Y NSW young leader Maveryn Reid because she misses the physical connection caused by Covid restrictions.
“Being online so much during COVID has been tough. Face-to-face is definitely different, you feel the connectedness being around people,” Reid said.
Westfield Parramatta Centre manager Adam Dillon said the program is part of its community asset plan and reflects Westfield’s passion and commitment to supporting its community, in particular youth.
Y NSW’s work is supported by Parramatta Council with funding from the Department of Communities and Justice.
The pop-up space is located at Level 2, Westfield Parramatta, and is open on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Fridays between 10-6pm, Thursdays from 10-8pm and Saturdays from 10-5pm.
Photo: NSW Youth Outreach and Inclusion coordinator Elise Kellett with young leader Maveryn Reid.