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Pop-up space to give social opportunities, mental health support to youth in Parramatta

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Young people in Parramatta are set to receive much-needed support thanks to an innovative new partnership between the YMCA NSW (Y NSW) and Westfield Parramatta, with the two organisations launching a youth pop-up space at Westfield Parramatta where they can hang out, recharge, meet new people and seek support from a youth worker.

Y NSW Youth Outreach and Inclusion Coordinator Elise Kellett said the space is a game changer for young people from Western Sydney.

“Young people from Parramatta and surrounds have been crying out for a space where they can be themselves; a safe inclusive space that is free of judgement that provides opportunities and support,” Kellett said.

“The idea behind the Westfield Y Space Pop Up is that Gen Z shape the space. Our programming and workshops are driven by what young people want and need, located in the middle of Westfield Parramatta where they naturally already congregate,” she said.

A survey of 14-25-year-olds conducted by the Y NSW in August/September 2020 identified employment support, social opportunities and mental health support as top priorities for young people within the Parramatta central business district.

Workshops and skills sessions will be conducted at a Westfield Parramatta pop-up store to respond to these needs including a Youth Collective series on Saturdays where young people will take the reins, coordinating and leading their own workshops to share their unique skills and perspectives.

Echoing the importance of this initiative for at-risk youth, Westfield Parramatta Centre Manager, Adam Dillon underscored the value of projects such as a youth pop-up space.

“Westfield Living Centres play an important role within the lives of our customers and their local communities. The youth engagement program is part of our community asset plan and reflects our passion and commitment to supporting our community, in particular our youth.

“It provides young people access to a number of support and educational resources in a vibrant safe space, which we hope will positively contribute to their personal and professional development. We look forward to working closely with the team from Y NSW to connect with as many individuals as possible,” added Dillon.

Y NSW Executive Leader Youth and Community Services Louisa McKay thanked Westfield for the opportunity to join forces for positive social impact.

“This exciting initiative has the potential to prevent youth crime, disengagement and poor outcomes down the track by engaging young people proactively. Our qualified staff will work with young people to develop life and employment skills and give them strategies to manage their mental, physical and social wellbeing,” she said.

Parramatta Y NSW Young Leader Maveryn, 20, agrees young people need opportunities to connect face-to-face.

“I think it’s really exciting how accessible the space will be within Westfield Parramatta. It’s right next to the station, all the buses go there and it’s a central meeting point for young people in Parramatta,” Mav said.

“Being online so much during COVID has been tough, I don’t have the best internet so sometimes it’s not the best for me. Face-to-face is definitely different, you feel the connectedness being around people,” they said.

The Y Space Pop Up Parramatta is located at Westfield Parramatta on Level 2, and is open Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Fridays between 10-6pm, Thursdays from 10-8pm and Saturdays from 10-5pm.

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