Western Sydney Uni & Google Australia Living Labs

By Novan Sachrudi

The stakes are high for young people living and working in the Greater Western Sydney region but fairly often it's unclear how we can meaningfully influence the decision making processes that impact our future. 

Y Vote is super pumped to be sharing this opportunity for young people living, studying or working in the GWS area to be involved in the planning and testing of innovative ideas alongside Western Sydney Uni, Google Australia and other stakeholders.

Read on for some context on why the stakes are high and how you can get involved.

The Challenges of Building an Even Greater GWS:

Few places in Australia have changed as rapidly as Greater Western Sydney (GWS). In fact it’s the nation’s biggest and fastest-growing urban region, and it’s got a lot to be proud of. Aside from producing some killer sporting teams that punch way above their weight (how about those Giants?!), it’s an economic powerhouse – the third biggest economy in Australia next to Sydney and Melbourne. With its rapid and promising changes, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that more than a million people are going to be calling it home in the next 20 years or so.

What's at stake for 18 - 35's:

But with great growth comes great challenges, and the planning and vision for GWS could really make or break its success story.  And seeing as GWS is such a young region, with more than half of all locals being under the age of 35, these rapid changes are really going to affect young people living and working in GWS. So we’re going to take a look at some of these key challenges and issues that will need solving in order to keep the GWS success story alive and sustainable well into the future, and how you might be able to be part of the solution.

GETTING A JOB IN GWS:

The youth unemployment rate for GWS is significantly higher than the NSW state average of 12 percent. In 2016, 14.35 percent of youth in Blacktown and the outer southwest were unemployed, and this went up to 15.7 percent in the inner southwest. Unfortunately, it’s just not getting any easier for young locals to get work within the GWS region.

This could be because the rate of jobs and opportunities aren’t growing as fast as the region’s population. According to Western Sydney University’s Centre for Western Sydney, in any typical year in GWS, jobs will grow by about 8,000 versus a growth of around 14,000 employed people living in GWS. In 2016 that translated to a massive exodus of 318,000 GWS residents leaving the area every day to go to work.

Though it isn’t all grey skies for GWS youth, with Parramatta reporting well below the state average at 9.9%. Nice work, Parra! 

But on the whole it’s proving to be challenge for GWSties, especially because GWS is still heavily reliant on the declining manufacturing sector to provide jobs, with the growth in other industries and sectors being unable to relieve the decline.  

..AND GETTING TO WORK

Getting to work is also a significant challenge for people who live in GWS. It’s a huge area and jobs are scattered around the whole region. Coupled with inadequate public transport, this means that less than 20% of all jobs in GWS can be reached within half an hour – and that’s if you drive. So naturally, the majority of GWS residents are opting to travel to work by car – and this has some very concerning consequences. Not only does this become really expensive, it also adds to increasing traffic congestion and air pollution. It has implications on quality of life, personal well-being and family relationships due to more time spent on the commute to and from work.

Without some forward thinking and effective solutions, this is only set to get worse. The number of GWS residents working outside of the region is projected to grow to 416,000 by 2036. So if you live in GWS, unless we come up with a way of getting you to work within 30 minutes and preferably without driving, you might be looking at spending more of your mornings enjoying the wonderful scenery and sounds of the M4 motorway.

SO WHO’S LISTENING?

As we have learned, for GWS solving the challenges of finding work and commuting to your job has huge positive knock-on effects which can only benefit young folks in this region. But while employment and transport are GWS’ big ticket issues, there are so many more issues to be discussed when it comes to imagining and building a successful and thriving GWS for young folks. Thinking of issues ranging from enhancing education delivery to the promoting the arts; the preservation of the natural environment to building a thriving nightlife; deepening culture to beefing up infrastructure – in a region so full of young people, it’s only natural that not only will we be participating in these sectors or receiving their services, but we’ll also be at the front line when it comes to delivering their successful outcomes.

But as young people, unfortunately it’s easy to pass us over when it comes to the decision making processes. Many young people feel marginalised from policy, city planning and the politics of it all, and their contributions are seen to be irrelevant or may go unacknowledged. If we’re trying to build the next big Australian urban powerhouse in GWS, then continuing to marginalise young GWSties from the decision making processes is to the detriment of all.

FIND A SOLUTION. ENTER THE LIVING LAB

GWS isn’t going to get built in a day, and there are some huge challenges to overcome to meet in a relatively short amount of time. What gets planned today and executed tomorrow and into the future could really dictate what kind of future GWS and Sydney as whole is in for. It really is make or break! So much is in our hands, so it’s only natural that some of the country’s greatest minds have taken to the challenge. And they want you to have a say!

Western Sydney University and Google Australia are collaborating to take a closer look at the critical issues and changes that GWS will be facing now and into the future. To do it, they’re combining and building on over 20 years of innovation to run a Living Lab – an impact and solutions focused research and development concept that brings together researchers, industry, government, community-based organisations and everyday citizens to co-design the solutions to the issues they face.

Sign up now!

The next workshop is on Friday 31 March from 9.30am-3.00pm in Parramatta.

If you’re a young person from GWS and would like to get involved you can register for free here. If you're a young person that doesn't earn a salary, make sure you let the organisers know at the email address below.

If you would like more info about what the Living Lab involves, or you can't make it to this workshop and would like to register your interest for future events please contact Dr Girish Lala at g.lala@westernsydney.edu.au. 

Image: Seb Zurcher