National Youth Week (April 20 to 30) is Australia's largest celebration of young people. 
The annual event provides young Australians with an opportunity to express their ideas and views, raise issues which concern them, act on issues that affect their lives, and create and enjoy activities and events. 

The Shack Youth Services at The Benevolent Society provides a range of recreational, educational and support services targeting young people ages 12-17 who reside in the local government areas of Randwick, Bayside, Georges River, Waverley, Woollahra and the City of Sydney. 

“At The Shack, we work to increase stability in the lives of young people and support them to reach their goals,” says Erica Sciascia, Team Leader Child, Youth and Family Team Leader – South East Sydney. 

The Shack supports young people who may require support in the areas of: 

  • Mental health  
  • General health 
  • Alcohol and drug use 
  • Centrelink & income difficulties  
  • Employment and education  
  • Housing  
  • General advocacy and support 

“We connect and partner with other likeminded services/agencies in order to deliver free programs and opportunities to young people,” Erica says. “We provide a soft entry point for young people to access support regarding their health, wellbeing and safety.  

“We assess support needs/themes presenting for young people in the community, advocate for the needs of young people and find creative ways to offer support.” 

Ahead of this year’s Youth Week, we spoke to Erica and The Shack youth workers, Will and Yaz, about the important work they do supporting our young people.  

What does Youth Week mean to you? 

Erica: “Youth Week is a time to recognise the young people within our community. Young people are often ‘overlooked’ or misunderstood so Youth Week is really an opportunity to celebrate young people and give them a platform to voice their strengths, needs and individuality!” 

Will: “Youth Week provides young people with a platform where they can have their voices heard on issues that are affecting THEM. It also offers adults an opportunity to simply just LISTEN to what young people are experiencing and help them understand what it’s like to be a young person in current society.” 
Yaz: “Youth Week is an opportunity to celebrate young people and their contributions in and to the community.” 

How is The Shack embracing this year’s Youth Week theme - Connect. Participate. Celebrate?

Erica: “For me, the theme really emphasises a need for the community to be more consciously aware of how we can ensure we are being inclusive of young people in our community; creating safe spaces for young people to showcase their ideas and talents; and celebrating the contributions of young people.” 

Will: “I think the theme is all about encouraging our young people to connect with the community, participate in activities and fun events, and celebrate each other for who they are and what makes unique.” 

What has The Shack organised to celebrate National Youth Week 2023? 

Erica: “The Shack will be running its regular Free School Holiday Program during this week as well as attending two major events. 

  • South East Block Party (Friday 21 April at Maroubra’s Coral Sea Park from 3-7pm) – The Shack will be hosting an interactive stall offering information about our services, along with free glow in the dark face painting. Funded by Randwick City Council, the South East Block Party helps to provide a spotlight for local talent in the Maroubra area. It also provides an opportunity for the community to come together and support each other and raise awareness of important issues like mental health.  

  • Deadly Connections Youth Week Event (Friday afternoon 28 April) – Deadly Connections have planned a massive day out for young mob to celebrate Youth Week. Local youth services will be in attendance to provide our young people with the opportunity to see familiar faces in the community and recognise that there are safe spaces around who are able to provide support and assistance should they ever need us. The Shack will be hosting an interactive stall with activities and information on youth services at this event.” 
What sort of impact has The Shack had in the community? 

Erica: “What we aim to do is provide young people with a positive experience when connecting with the program so that they feel comfortable to reach out at times of need and feel more confident accessing support generally. So when young people come back years on end or reach out for help – we consider this a massive win! 

“We always receive a lot of positive feedback in regards to our tutoring program. It is always so beautiful and fulfilling to hear that a young person’s entire attitude towards education has changed and they’re enjoying school.” 

What are the biggest changes facing our youth today?

Erica: “Some of the biggest support needs arising for young people today are based around mental health, vaping and forming healthy relationships. Young people do the majority of their learning, exploring and connecting on social media – and this has had a huge impact on their access to information (both good and bad) and has really skewed young people’s perceptions of safety.”  

What’s the best advice you give to young people?  

Erica: “If you always compare yourself to others, you will never work out who you are!” 

Will: “Life is a marathon not a race, and that you can’t quit after failure, because overcoming failure and how you rise above that failure is truly what shapes you as a human being. We are adaptive people, and we evolve throughout our lifespan, so be grateful for the hard times that helped you grow.” 

Yaz: “In high school everyone tries to fit in, but once you leave high school all you want to do is stand out. It's ok to stand out now!” 

Contact The Shack by emailing or calling 1800 236 762. You can also follow them on Instagram @theshack_youthservices