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Young people advocate for health and wellbeing

YOUthfrontline aims to make a difference in young people’s lives.

A portrait of Jessie Waratah outside, smiling.
SydneyConnect Image: Jessie Waratah

Jessie Waratah has a message to share with young people.

“Don’t let fear stop you from seeking help when you need it most,” she said.

Jessie 23, a proud Gamilaraay and Warlpiri woman, is an artist who works with indigenous students to create school murals and installations that reflect their heritage.

She is also a member of YOUthfrontline – a team who collaborates with Sydney Local Health District’s Youth Health Service, Youthblock.

The team’s valuable insights help to shape Youthblock’s practices and service delivery, and the provision of safe and accessible spaces for young people across the District. 

Youthblock is a free, multidisciplinary service for marginalised and at-risk young people aged 12 to 25 and who are living, working or studying in the District.

Its team is made up of nurses, counsellors, health promotion staff and a medical officer who provide a holistic approach to young people’s physical and psychosocial health and wellbeing.

Jessie first learnt about Youthblock when she faced health challenges in high school.

“I was wrestling with my identity and place in the world. It felt like there was a crushing weight on me. I felt so alone. I was struggling with anxiety and an eating disorder at the time.

“I didn’t want to be a burden on my parents or make them sad. But, eventually I realised I needed to talk with someone so I asked my Mum for help. Our GP told us about Youthblock,” Jessie said.

Youthblock ensured Jessie received the care and support she needed. She still sees a Youthblock counsellor today.

“My counsellor has changed my entire life. She has helped to keep me grounded in the eye of a storm, instead of being swept away in it,” Jessie said.

Jessie later joined YOUthfrontline to advocate for young peoples’ health and wellbeing.

She’s one of five members – who also include Hareem Abbasi, Billee Ward and Samantha Yaqoub – who aim to ensure the voices of young people are integrated into the District’s policies and services.  

“We share our experiences and learn from others in a safe space. We also provide input into how to improve health care services and resources. We want to make a difference in young people’s lives,” she said.

Jessie is sharing her story as the District marks Youth Week, which is an opportunity for young people to express their ideas and views, act on issues that affect them, and celebrate their contribution to the community.

This year’s theme is It’s up to Youth.

For more information about Youthblock, please call 02 9562 5640.