Regional Youth Minister Bronnie Taylor writes about the importance of supporting our young people.

Unfortunately, it’s not always easy being a young person in regional NSW.

There are challenges – skills training or tertiary education can be hours away, there aren’t always spaces or opportunities to connect with friends, and mental health services can be hard to find.

Little wonder that many of our regions are losing young people to the lure of city life.

That’s why we brought together 18 young people from across regional NSW to form a solutions-focused Regional Youth Taskforce late last year.

Aged between 12 and 24, they reflect the diversity of our regions and will ensure the voices of young people are heard when government makes decisions that affect their lives.

Last week, the taskforce convened to discuss how young people in regional and rural communities could better connect to friends and services.

Although the group was unable to get together face to face in Queanbeyan due to social distancing measures, the meeting occurred using video technology.

Good connectivity for our young people out in the regions is absolutely critical, and it has been brought into even sharper focus by social distancing measures.

Tapping into the brains trust of the taskforce gives us a direct line into what is working well and what isn’t, so we can find fast fixes and close the gaps.

The NSW government has committed $400 million under the Regional Digital Connectivity program to bring faster and more reliable access to mobile, internet and digital services to ensure families and businesses in regional NSW don’t get left behind. We are not taking our eye off the prize.

There is plenty more to come.

Next on the agenda is the subject of ‘wellbeing’, another pillar in our whole-of-government approach to improving social and economic opportunities and outcomes of young people in regional NSW.

I am incredibly proud of what the taskforce has helped us accomplish so far.

With them leading the way, our regions will be places where all young people can stay, live, work, grow and thrive for generations to come.