Foundation for Rural & Regional Renewal (FRRR)

Many regional students face a range of challenges and barriers to post-secondary education, including financial disadvantage, greater travel distances, and limited choice. In Broken Hill in Far Western NSW, fewer than 45% of year 12 students attended university, which is well below 80.3% of their metropolitan counterparts (Source:

In 2021, the Heywire Ideas Lab was held in Broken Hill, due to the cancellation of the Canberra Summit because of COVID. Broken Hill was chosen as the location because of the high number of Heywire competition entries from the community each year.

Twenty-seven students from Broken Hill High School spent a week at the inaugural Broken Hill Ideas Lab. In an incredible week full of storytelling, on-air interviews and developing ideas for change, Broken Hill youth had their voices amplified, and developed five exciting ideas to champion positive change for youth across Australia. 

Common line of questioning sparks idea

Young people are asked almost daily what they want to do with their life, and what their future plans are – questions that can be overwhelming, particularly when you don’t yet know what careers are even possible. Even if you do, how do you get there? How can you connect with experts in the field and find the right contacts to start your dream career? It was this challenge that Ella, Angel, Kloe, Ellie & Emerson set out to address, coming up with the Discover Your Future project idea during the Ideas Lab.

Far West University Centre (UC) attended the ideas pitch and were so inspired by the Discover Your Future idea that they decided to work with the youth team to make it a reality in Broken Hill.

The idea and the voices of youth continued to be at the centre of the development and delivery of the project. The group took part in all stages of the project lifecycle and worked collaboratively with UC staff to implement the project.

Helping young people make decisions about their post-school life

With the help of a $7,269 FRRR ABC Heywire Youth Innovation Grant, funded by Findex Community Fund, Far West UC was able to collaborate with two of the initial group members to host a Discover Your Future event, aimed at giving young people a chance to explore and learn more about their future career options.

This day-long event held in May last year was an amazing opportunity for students from Broken Hill High School and Willyama High School to connect with local professionals and industry experts to learn about career paths in Far West NSW.

Close to 150 students were joined by 30 local professionals across 15 organisations, who provided an insight into a vast array of careers and employment opportunities. The day also created connections and increased young people’s confidence in seeking support to navigate post-school life.

Students reported feeling motivated to keep exploring different career opportunities and said that they learned about new careers that they had not considered before.

“It’s definitely helped a lot of the people here today already, that have come through. They are really excited about things that they could possibly go into,” said Emerson, co-creator of the Discover Your Future idea.

Industry participants reflected on how the day was incredibly successful due to its youth-centric, youth-driven approach with a platform for equal voices for youth.

“It’s great to see young people so engaged in a different way than we normally do around careers. It’s open, and they have the opportunity to talk and ask questions, and at the same time giving us some great information about what they want in Broken Hill,” said Dionne, from Broken Hill Council.  

From Ideas Lab to reality …

Far West UC said that the grant made it possible for them to bring the project to life and stay true to the original intent of the project idea. Funding covered venue hire, catering, videographer and photographer, marketing and advertising, and resources for activities.

Ensuring that the event met the needs of the young people and keeping them involved as event organisers was critical to the success of the project.

“We didn’t think anything would happen with it. Like we just thought it would be something we thought of and created but we didn’t think it would actually come this far to like the actual day now, it feels very surreal,” Emerson said.

Mutually beneficial relationships created

Far West UC is pleased to have developed a strong relationship with youth and is looking at further opportunities to work together in supporting local youth to explore initiatives to improve youth self-efficacy in navigating post-school transitions. Furthermore, through consultation and collaboration with high school partners the Discover Your Future team was successful in coordinating the attendance of students from year 10, 11 and 12 from both local high schools.

Danielle Keenan from Far West UC said that while the primary aim of the project Discover Your Future was to increase the visibility of career and education options within our region, it also moved to address wider community issues such as the retention of young people, workplace development, economic growth and social outcomes.

She also said that feedback from industry evaluations suggests the event was seen as a worthwhile experience for the local industry, with 86% of survey responses stating that they would be likely or very likely to attend another event. An anonymous quote from the evaluation survey captures the positive feedback: “This event was extremely well executed. The Discover Your Future event engaged young people in a variety of interesting and exciting ways which kept the energy level of the participants high and created an opportunity for more open dialogue during the career engagement section of the session”.

Most importantly, almost 80% of students who completed the post-event survey (67 responses) said they have learned about new careers that they have not considered before.

Danielle said, “The success of the event hinged on the solid and diverse engagement of the community across multiple employment sectors and education stakeholders. The project team developed a strong communication strategy that was able to highlight the mutual benefit of professional involvement in the careers networking event. Subsequently, the project also proved to be an innovative and creative contribution to bolstering the community’s workforce attraction and youth retention strategies.

“In turn, Discover Your Future was able to increase exposure to a vast array of careers and employment opportunities and increase young people’s confidence in seeking support to navigate post-school life.”

$175,000 available to bring youth-led initiatives to life

FRRR is inviting remote, rural and regional community groups apply for grants of up to $10,000 to help fund projects that provide innovative solutions to five priority issues identified by participants at the inaugural Heywire Youth Ideas Lab, held recently in Broken Hill.

Grants on offer to address issues that matter to young rural Australians

Since 2013, the FRRR ABC Heywire Youth Innovation Grants program has supported remote, rural and regional youth to address issues that matter most to them. To date, more than $1 million in community and philanthropic investment has helped to fund more than 130 projects in over 160 communities.

This year, due to COVID-19, the ABC needed to pivot their approach to how the ideas were generated. Typically, they come from the annual Heywire Youth Summit in Canberra, but instead, over three days 27 young local leaders from Broken Hill and surrounding regions came together. Broken Hill was chosen as the host town because it had the most entries in the annual Heywire story-telling competition. The young leaders learnt new skills, shared their stories, and workshopped ideas to help make rural and regional Australia an even better place for young people to live and work.

These ideas now form the basis of the FRRR ABC Heywire Youth Innovation grants, and include:

  • Discover Your Future: Giving young people a chance to explore and learn more about their future career options.
  • Open Field Fest: Bringing music, art and people together to help create a community-run music and arts festival.
  • Support Squad: Training young leaders to provide support, knowledge and companionship to peers who may be struggling with a variety of challenges.
  • The Story Link Project: Tackling discrimination through sharing diverse stories that help people within regional communities understand the impact of discriminatory language.
  • Contribute to the Change: Helping young people improve their mental health knowledge and understanding, so they are confident to seek the help they need.

Natalie Egleton, FRRR’s CEO, said each year she is impressed by the ideas that Heywirers bring to the table, and this year is no exception.

“The five ideas developed by Broken Hill’s young people are insightful and meaningful and provide a snapshot of the issues currently faced by young rural people across Australia. The beauty of the FRRR ABC Heywire Youth Innovation Grants is that they fund projects driven by these young Australians’ ideas.

“We encourage community groups to engage with local youth when considering which idea to adopt and adapt. These capable young leaders understand local context and can help adapt an idea to best suit the priorities of local youth and assist in leading a meaningful project that will make their community more inviting and inspiring for other young people to live and work,” Ms Egleton said.

Youth Ideas Lab and Heywire participant Ashlyn speaks of how proud she is of herself and her Broken Hill community for coming up with the five ideas which were designed to combat challenges they themselves have faced. 

“The Youth Ideas Lab was such an incredible and inspiring experience. I’m so glad our Broken Hill community was given the opportunity to come up with these ideas that will soon be turned into realities. These ideas were formed by our unique experiences; now it’s your chance to take them on in your own community. I can’t wait to see where they go and how they grow!”

This program is possible thanks to the generous support of FRRR’s donor partners, including The Sally Foundation, Erdi Foundation, Findex Community Fund, David Mactaggart Foundation, and private donors. This year, thanks to their generosity, $175,000 in grants is available.

Applications close Thursday, 19 August 2021 and recipients will be announced in early November. More information is available here.