There have been plenty of pandemics throughout history but the human response to coronavirus has been unprecedented. With close to 4 billion people living in social isolation during this mother-of-all pandemics, the world is never going to be the same again. We now face the challenge of responding to the profound impacts of social isolation and loneliness.

As a young person I look at my peers and those younger than me and question ‘what does our future hold and how we will rebound from this life-altering event?’

How do we adequately respond to the challenge of isolation and loneliness? How do we adequately address not only the short-term consequences but also consider the long-term ramifications? The ramifications to the mental wellbeing of not only individuals, but an entire cohort and generation of young people. Long-term impacts extend into the physical wellbeing of a society, as flagged by many leading health professionals.

Social connection and feeling part of a community have been fundamental to me during these past two years. However, traditional community-based organisations since the mid-1960s have seen a decline in participation of both adults and youth. With only a quarter of Australians now having a formal membership in an organisation, it is no wonder a member-based organisation like FFN looks at this challenge and asks, ‘do we need a youth-driven response?’

Throughout my life I have been fortunate to be involved in organisations that pride themselves as being champions for youth and doing this with authenticity and integrity; being organisations that are FOR young people, run BY young people.

I believe young people crave belonging and a safe space, but it also needs to be on their terms. They need to be reflected in the leadership of an organisation, have avenues for their opinions and needs to be heard, and be a part of the decision making.

Let’s challenge the concept of community altogether. Youth shows us that a community doesn’t have to be the geographic where place you live; it can exist virtually. I have a network of close friends and colleagues that is largely virtual. We connect and bond over mutual interest and respect for one another. Social media has shown us this can be achieved but it can’t be forced. It needs to be organic and genuine.

All of this has been at the forefront of the FFN Board’s mind for the past three months as we have reviewed our strategic direction and considered what our membership is telling us. I look forward to working alongside both my fellow Directors and the inspiring young people that are our members as we champion the development of every young person in Australian ag!

Future Farmers Network directors regularly give their opinion on the latest news, events and issues in agriculture for an article for Australian Community Media. Here’s the most recent article from FFN Director Amelia Shaw.