Byron Bay, NSW
Young people and community folk around Byron Bay are planting hundreds of trees and creating a fruit food forest. Importantly, they are also learning to improve their environment by nurturing the health of their garden through the use of worm farm produce and permaculture practices.
The Byron Youth Activity Centre (YAC), with support from Highways and Byways, is using part of its crown land property to develop a food forest and spaces where young people can spend time together or with a youth worker.
According to YAC worker Rosalie Bryant the ‘forest’ is also an important way of combatting the climate anxiety that many young people are now experiencing.
Earlier this year, the youth mental health organisation Orygen and Mission Australia released the findings of a survey of nearly 19,000 young Australians aged 15 to 19. It found over half (51%) identified the environment as one of the most important issues in Australia today, and more than a quarter (26%) reported they were extremely or very concerned about climate change.
According to the report, research suggests climate anxiety can be mitigated through practical actions such as joining groups that are taking action to fight climate change and connecting with nature.
YAC is certainly encouraging young people to be part of the action. Through this year’s Green Thumbs project YAC, in partnership with the Byron Community Primary School, planted 310 trees and seedlings. The trees were a mixture of tropical/subtropical and native fruit trees and the seedlings were a mixture of native flowers, herbs and seasonal leafy greens. About 158 people participated in the Green Thumbs project and 104 were young people.
“We encouraged young people to grab a tree, a shovel and head out with a youth worker to plant their tree. This offered important moments of connection. They might not have had a therapeutic conversation while working in the gardens but it created a connection that is there when that person needs a youth worker,” Rosalie said.
As well as massive plantings, YAC ran a series of workshops covering soil preparation, worm farms, tree selection, garden maintenance and the role of worms and insects in gardens.
“This was a great project and we took the young people along every step of the way,” Rosalie said.