Young people are leaving Hepburn for opportunities outside the Shire.

ABS statistics show that while Shire residents under 20 comprise 19.4% of the population, those between 20 and 39  comprise only 15.2%. This represents a loss of about 650 young people to our community.

By comparison, the 50-69 age group represents 36.6% of the Shire population possibly reflecting older, wealthier tree-changers and retirees who move into the Shire.

Hepburn Shire population by age groups. (Source: 2021 census, Australian Bureau of Statistics.)

THE ACE, a draft youth strategy for the Shire seeks to address issues which make the Shire less attractive to young people and to retain their knowledge and enthusiasm for the betterment of the local community.

The draft strategy was co-designed by local young people who took the lead in designing and implementing the consultation and Youth Census that identified matters of importance to young people. ACE stands for Advocate, Celebrate, Elevate. The strategy seeks to Advocate with and for young people on the issues that matter most to them, Celebrate our young people, their passions, skills, contributions, achievements and endeavours and Elevate young people as leaders and decision makers in our schools and communities and in their own lives however they choose to live them.

The Youth Census identified issues of concern to young people. The lack of education and employment opportunities was a significant barrier to living in the Shire. Only 48% of secondary students who finished in 2019 went on to further study compared to a state wide average of 75%.

Drug and alcohol usage was considered a significant issue for young people. Lack of entertainment options, boredom and relieving stress were the main reasons for drug usage.

A lack of public transport was identified as a major barrier to participation for young people. Without the support of a parent to drive them, young people find it difficult to participate in after school sport or to get to work or tertiary education locations.

The strategy aims to increase resilience in young people, raise their voice on topics they see as important, strengthen community partnerships, find ways for young people to be more included and respected in the community, and remove barriers for young people in the community.

THE ACE is separated across eight focus areas which were developed based on feedback as part of the Youth Census. The focus areas are mental health; climate action; gender equity, inclusion and diversity; youth health and wellbeing; social community connection; personal growth and development; youth agency and empowerment; and safety and security.

Council is now seeking feedback on the draft strategy and invites community members, particularly young people, to review the strategy and have a say. Submissions close at 5pm on Friday 6 May.

Read THE ACE and provide feedback at