Redcliffe Area Youth Space marked its 21st birthday during a celebration this morning at the location from which it has been changing lives since opening its doors in 2002.
The event was attended by local politicians, senior police officers, supporters, staff, young people and their families this morning. See the photo gallery at the end of the story
Like most 21st birthday parties there were speeches, a video showcasing a lifetime of highlights, tears of pride and a birthday cake.
There was also a surprise presentation to the person who has given 17 years of her life to the organisation, Executive Manager Amy-lee Mayes.
“It’s crazy to think the Redcliffe community and Youth Space have known each other for 21 years but it also feels like forever,” Amy-lee told the crowd.
She spoke about how technology and music had changed during that time and programs had evolved to suit the needs of young people.
Amy-lee also shared the challenges the organisation had faced including losing funding during the ‘Newman era’ and having to take control of its own destiny in establishing its own board and revenue streams.
“The early days of the Youth Space were in a very different Redcliffe – things were not yet gentrified. The level of need was very different. There were not the levels of young people homeless like we are seeing (now),” she explained.
Timeline of tireless work
Redcliffe Area Youth Space was initially designed to be an arts and music hub but had adapted to meet changing needs.
“The Youth Space evolved into a strong-willed child. We started working with people who were not in mainstream education and activities. Programs were added to better support the needs of our community,” Amy said.
“(During the) ‘Newman era’ 2012-15 – funding was stripped from programs and the team went from 16 to 2.5 people.
“Not to be kept down, new programs replaced old ones and the remaining staff continued to operate the unfunded programs we had.”
Amy-lee said RAYS had always offered drop-in, giving young people a safe space to visit and seek support. This has now been expanded to the Safe Space network for all ages and operates every night until 10pm.
RAYS was also instrumental in addressing anti-social behaviour at Westfield North Lakes many years ago by running dance and art workshops and co-designing The Corso precinct from which YMCA now operates.
For Amy-lee, one of the highlights was the introduction of Picnic Hill in 2016 and her shock when about 5000 people turned up for the first event.
The popular event returns from its COVID-19 hiatus on April 14. See the details here
In 2017, RAYS received funding for its ASHA program enabling it to add clinical mental services to its suite of programs.
As the team looks to the future, Amy-lee promised RAYS would continue to evolve as it always had.
“Know that we will do whatever is needed for our community. We currently have an application in to be an independent school as we know there are many young people requiring specialist assistance … far too many young people are falling through the cracks,” she said.
“We know we need a bigger facility to offer more services to our community, so an extension is in the plans.”
Big month of celebration
Quality and Business Manager Kathryn Kenny said RAYS would celebrate the 21st birthday milestone with 21 events during the month April most of which would focus on young people.
She said relationships were at the heart of Youth Space, where no relationship was more important than another.
“It is in the context of the relationship that the real work is done,” she said.
Kathryn said all the programs staff had run over the years would not have succeeded if relationships were not strong and she added that no one program defined what RAYS did or was.
“In fact, the organisation has been built on programs and initiatives that are not formally funded but respond to the need and allows for relationships and connection,” she said.
“Drop-in happens daily. It is this that ensures our connections to the community are deep and far reaching.”
Young people know they can trust and count on the RAYS team.
“The Youth Space has been experiencing an unprecedented tsunami of need. Needs have increased and they are more complex entrenched than ever before. We intend to respond to that need in the most sustainable way possible,” Kathryn said.
“We intend to work in retaining long-term staff so that the relationships, that are at the core and heart of who we are, can be sustained.
“We intend to keep knocking on doors to find the support and funding for an extension to fit in the services that the community needs.”
And the team will continue to build relationships with the community and those in need while being a voice of advocacy.
One young person told the crowd how much Redcliffe Area Youth Space meant to her. It’s a second home, somewhere she feels safe and accepted. The team have also helped her find a job and get her life together.
State Member for Redcliffe Yvette D’Ath paid tribute to Amy-lee for her tireless work during the past 17 years and how she and the organisation had grown as a result.
“In 2012, this organisation went through change and not in a good way. We saw across this state funding ripped away and organisations shut their doors. I watched in horror as staff disappeared from this very important service. I watched staff work here for no wages for months and months and months just to keep the doors open,” she recalled.
She said while many organisations were inclined to stay quiet after such an experience, Amy-lee did not.
“Amy said, ‘I’m not going to allow this to happen ever again without giving it a voice’,” she recalled.
“What Amy did was give a voice to our young people.”
Ms D’Ath said Amy-lee had advocated for young people when others condemned them in the media.
“She has challenged those stereotypes about our young people. If more people across this state, this nation did what Amy did we would have a bipartisan approach to dealing with our young people and youth crime as opposed to using it as a weapon and being divisive about it,” she said.
“I want to thank you Amy for your extraordinary leadership. This is not a job to you. This is your life … these people mean everything to you.”
Success has come in many forms during the past 21 years - helping young people find somewhere to live, receive education, find work and realise someone cares about them.
“It has been an absolute privilege working with this community. I get so proud of my team and everybody that I work with. It is all about relationship and we have some amazing people in this community. Redcliffe is actually a really special place,” Amy-lee said.
To find out more about Redcliffe Area Youth Space, head to the website
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