Creating fun and inclusive spaces for young people: How Miranda is changing the game at Cardinia Shire Council’s Youth Services

Miranda, Youth Engagement Officer at Cardinia Shire Council, has been making her mark on Youth Services since 2013. She’s helped implement numerous in-school and after-school programs that support young people to navigate the most important years of their lives. We talked to Miranda about what matters most to her and why she’s so excited about the future.

Spreading positivity

Miranda is a real bundle of positive energy. When you talk to her, her enthusiasm for the work she does is so contagious. Through Youth Services at Cardinia Shire Council, she’s made great strides to create a safe and inclusive environment for young people in the community.

Since joining as a Youth Outreach Officer in 2013, Miranda has played a key role in impactful initiatives such as the Mobile Youth Bus service, Portsea Camp and in-school programs across the Shire.

“When I first started, one of the big initiatives I worked on was to get into primary schools and start working in the Grade 6 to Grade 7 space, which is a really hard transition year for a lot of young people. I was also involved in setting up support in the LGBTQIA+ space, which Cardinia didn’t really have at the time. I went out to a lot of our schools and consulted on setting up Gay Straight Alliance groups with a focus on putting policies in place to better support their students.”

Since their inception in 2013, these support services for young people have only grown. The popularity of groups like Be Ur Self and Cardinia Pride contributed to the first-ever Cardinia Pride Formal held in 2017 – a free LGBTQIA+ event where young people came together in a safe and discrimination-free environment.

“The Pride Formal is like my heart,” says Miranda. “We partnered with FReeZA, which provided us with funding, and held the first formal at the Pakenham Hall. It sold out a week before the event. I was so excited that it actually worked. We had 220 young people attend our first event, and it’s just grown from there. Last year, we had 300 young people attend, and we’re already in the planning stages for next year’s event in March.”

Do you want to make a positive impact in your community?

Join the team at Cardinia Shire Council

A passionate advocate

Now, as a part-time Youth Engagement Officer, Miranda’s busy looking after three in-school programs and two programs outside of school hours, as well as occasionally providing one-on-one support.

“At times, I feel like I do five days’ worth of work in my two days because I’m ridiculously passionate about working with young people. One of the programs I’m part of is our Youth Action Committee, which is an advocacy-based program where we teach young people leadership skills and build their capacity within the community.”

Creating space and supporting young people to be their true selves are key features of Miranda’s legacy at Cardinia Shire Council. Through the growing popularity of her in-school programs, Miranda has given countless young people a voice and place where they feel welcomed.

“Our Youth Service here in Cardinia is amazing and available to anyone aged between 12 and 24. It offers a diverse range of programs and support services. The My Place Youth Facility is super welcoming. There’s always a youth worker at the front desk, who’s happy to give you a tour and offer a hot cup of Milo or tea. We’ve got an internet cafe and a PS5 to play on, as well as Wacom drawing tablets and DJ equipment for making music. And apart from some of our school holiday activities, everything is completely free!”

Advocacy plays a substantial role in Miranda’s work. In fact, her passion, expertise and knowledge were recognised by appointing her “Integration Mentor” with the specific goal of sustaining and embedding the ‘Safe and Supported’ program not only within Cardinia Shire Council, but within two other local councils. The program was one of four council initiatives selected to receive additional funding from VicHealth to support Miranda’s role in this.

“I always say, ‘If you want something to happen at your school, come in and talk to us about it’. We can always contact your school and see what we can put together. Advocacy is something we are really big on at Cardinia. We want to try to advocate for our young people to ensure they’re getting the best out of the journey they’re on.”

An exciting future

With a career spanning more than 10 years in Youth Services, Miranda is still as passionate as ever about helping others. She sees her work as an avenue for maintaining an open-minded outlook on life, as well as a source of hope for what lies ahead.

“I have never shut down a young person or their ideas,” she says. “They’re our next generation. They’re the ones who are going to change the world. And the impact we can have on their lives is huge. People have said to me, ‘I don’t think I would be here today without the support I’ve gotten from the service.’ Those are the golden moments that have a big impact and keep me doing what I do every single day.”

Looking to the future, Miranda is excited about Cardinia’s plans to build a new Youth Hub in Pakenham (opening in 2024) – an upgraded facility closer to the city centre with dedicated training rooms, counselling rooms, a program/group room, hang-out space, shower and laundry facility, recording booth, computers with internet access, and a roof-top recreation space.

“It’s going to be an amazing space for our young people to access recreational activities, social activities and emotional and mental health support all under one roof. It will be a big game changer for us as a service and a positive change for our community. I hope that what I’ve been able to do so far continues to grow and our young people continue to get the support they need. I’m looking forward to being a part of that at Cardinia.”

Want to be a positive influence in the lives of young people?

Join the Youth Services team at Cardinia Shire Council