The Futsal courts on Neill Street Reserve played host to a bubble soccer match, where children of all ages squeezed themselves into giant inflatable balls and crashed into each other. This was just one activity at Voicefest, a day that celebrated youth, expressing yourself and individuality.
They were having so much fun that they forgot to actually play soccer and ended up just spending hours bumping, rolling and spinning around in bubbles that covered their entire upper bodies.
Idil Ali is the youth peer leader at The Drum, a youth-centred branch of the Drummond Street Services, and is one of the people responsible for organising the event. Voicefest is a youth organised festival and is held at the Carlton housing estate. It aims to encourage young people to play sports, listen to or play music, join in arts and crafts, get their face painted or ride on the bike track.
The youth committee is made up of different groups of people from ages 16 to 25 years. Ali finds the committee is really interested in getting involved and learning new things. They organised a budget, learnt about event management, prepared risk management strategy and they’re all under the age of 25. When preparing the event, The Drum’s youth committee made a list of different ways young people can express themselves. They wanted to encourage people to spend time with people outside of their social groups.
There are many different groups with their own unique cliques and Ali wanted all these different people to spend time together. The nature of the groups ranged from the LGBTQI community to an East-African girls group. For Ali, getting different groups together and encouraging them to befriend each other meant she could help get rid of stereotypes. “The next time you’re in a space and someone is discriminated against in your group it is more personalised. So you feel the need to say ‘hey that’s not okay’ because you know someone from that group now,” said Ali.
Sports Without Borders helped during their planning by offering knowledge and experience of how to run the sports participation side of the event. The Drum wanted the festival to be all-inclusive so they avoided gendered activities and included people of all ages to play together.
Ali said she used to go to community events where she met people older than her who then became her mentors. “People who are older than you and know more about life, you’re able to talk to them and you get to link with all different age groups,” she said.
Ali was straight out of high school when she was hired as youth peer leader and is now studying science at La Trobe University. She’s interested in animal and veterinary bioscience but she remains unsure about what to do. “I’m into a lot of community work but I feel like whatever job you end up doing you can make opportunities for young people,” she said.
Photo by Daniel Horsley