16 August 2019
QUT Law Faculty, Brisbane, Australia
The international Youth Engaged in Wetlands network is growing and we are already seeing some interest and demand to develop activities, initiatives at a more national and local level. With that in mind, this meet-up aimed to gather people from different backgrounds and to start talking about potential actions that they can do at a Brisbane level and Australian level to get more young people engaged in wetlands and stay connected to the international YEW team.
On the 16th of August 2019, a couple of wetlands aficionados met in the city of Brisbane to talk about the engagement of young people in wetlands. Starting off with a short walk along the mangroves that board the edge of the city’s botanical gardens, participants shared their first memories of times in wetlands. From childhood wetland walks at Boondall wetland centre and measuring salinity on North Stradbroke Island wetlands to the Scottish marshes and exploring New Caledonian mangroves, we covered quite a diversity of wetlands between us!
Our wetland adventure then continued inside Queensland University of Technology for a Conversation Café exploring the question:
“What are the challenges for youth engagement in Australian wetlands?”
The main challenges identified were related to the lack of opportunities to connect with wetlands, realizing the current disconnection of young people with these ecosystems in relation to their day-to-day priorities such as career development and earning money. Time for volunteering or discovering wetlands was also seen as a challenge and barrier to the long-term engagement of young people in wetland related conservation. A word that came about quite frequently was also “cool” – today, wetlands are not what you might call “cool” for young people.
These challenges quickly evolved towards positive statements as participants highlighted the need to make it easier for young people to get involved, to “get into the mud” and personally experience wetlands! There is a need for placing wetlands into young people’s culture, integrating these ecosystems into what they do anyway.
Focusing on young professionals and students, the group identified several important ways to connect with what motivates young people which included relating wetlands to their careers and professional development and their personal interests. Wetlands can relate to a diversity of jobs, cross-cutting across various disciplines. A networking event based in a wetland embracing this diversity was proposed where young people could meet professionals and learn about their work and explore potential careers.
Events around wetlands have the capacity to cater to a diversity of interests from food tying to native wetland species, music, wellness and wellbeing, guided birdwatching and tours, photography etc. – needless to say ideas were flowing! Such ideas emerged as ways of normalizing and reconnecting with wetlands, integrating them into the day to day lives of young people.
Particularly, the new Boondall Wetland Centre under development was seen as a great opportunity to engage more with young professionals and students, in particular through the network of universities present around Brisbane.
IDEAS OF NEXT STEPS:
Keep the conversation going – organize other Conversation Cafés around different wetland topics or ideas
Connect with others and share your idea of what you might want to do from a visit to a wetland to a full-blown festival celebrating wetlands!
Keep in touch with YEW with what you are doing and share your stories of youth engaged in wetlands in Australia !
If you are interested in seeing what you can do to get more involved in wetlands in Brisbane, contact firstname.lastname@example.org
INFOGRAPHIC SUMMARIZING THE CONVERSATION CAFÉ
By Elise Allély-Fermé