International Women's Day: Changing young lives

Published 9:00am 6 March 2023

International Women's Day: Changing young lives
Words by Kylie Knight

Redcliffe Area Youth Space Executive Manager Amy-lee Mayes is driven by a desire to help young people and make a difference that flows through to the next generation and beyond.

She has been at RAYS for 17 years, arriving as a 21-year-old on student placement who was still unsure of what sector she wanted to work in.

“I decided to do the Cert 4 in AOD (alcohol and other drug use) and mental health just to see if I liked it and fell in love with it. I didn’t think I wanted to work with young people to be honest, I thought I’d like working in the rehab sector but on my second placement I found RAYS and I never left,” Amy-lee recalls.

“I always wanted to do something in the helping profession, it’s not what I left school for … I was a hairdresser but decided I liked people and helping people.

“I became a young mum at 19 and after I had my son, I decided that I needed to have a career so that he grows up thinking that he should have a career too.”

Amy-lee has been the Executive Manager for about eight years, leading a team equally passionate about advocating for the physical, mental, and emotional wellbeing of young people.

|“(I love having) the ability to be able to get to work with the most vulnerable young people and watch them grow and change,” she says.|

“I think you have some great success stories when they’re young because you have the ability to completely change the trajectory of their lives.”

During her time at RAYS, the organisation has evolved to meet the needs of the community and its focus has shifted.

“When RAYS first started, just before my time, it was predominantly an arts and music type place. I think they would apply for some funding for vocational training programs,” Amy-lee recalls.

“But we’re situated right next to a skate park and kind of in the heart of Redcliffe. So, young people would drop in all the time and those young people changed to vulnerable young people, and I think we’ve grown since then.

“The community has changed, we’ve tried to adapt and change with the community. So, when mental health became more of an issue or more of a focus, we changed and became a clinical service.

“We do training and employment-type programs, we do education programs for young people who are disengaged from school, early intervention and prevention-type programs, clinical mental health service and we’ve just opened up our Safe Space. This is for all ages, this age range has been from 10-72. It’s open every evening until 10pm and every weekend.”

International Women's Day: Changing young lives

Labour of love

Amy-lee still finds her work rewarding and is committed to doing all she can to improve the lives of vulnerable young people.

|“You can change the lives of young people for their entire life. Sometimes it doesn’t happen straight away but they might take that one tiny piece of advice or support, or whatever it may be, and embed that into their life and then the future generations,” she says.|

“I grew up in a pretty low socio-economic household, my dad was a single father and he worked three jobs so we were home by ourselves all the time. We grew up in housing commission areas and I watched people struggle. I just wanted to be the person who provides that support to people who needed it.

“I don’t know how other people do normal jobs. I feel like … although it can be heart-breaking and very frustrating … you get to make an actual difference in someone’s life which is awesome. My favourite part is challenging the government and policy of the day to try and change systems for future generations. For me, that’s probably my favourite part of the job now … the ability to make systems change.”

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