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13 Jul 2021

Offering local youth a safe space to develop their skills #Community

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In early 2020 the Westfield Garden City team implemented three new programs for local youth: ‘Youth Safe Space’, ‘Strength’ and ‘Shine’. 

Eighteen months on and the program continues to grow, and numerous Westfield retailers have joined the movement to support young people to build their skills, resilience and positive community connections.


It began with Leata’s vision
In her former role as Risk & Security Manager, Leata Hunter had a vision to create a safe space for the youth in Westfield Garden City where they could safely socialise and connect through positive activities.

She reached out to our 2020 Westfield Local Hero organisation Hillsong City Care Youth, the YMCA, PCYC and Queensland Police and together they have brought her vision to life.

“It’s such a simple, but effective concept. The local youth come to our ‘Youth Safe Space’ sessions to play basketball and board games, enjoy a sausage sizzle and listen to live music while they connect with each other and with positive adult role models,” said Leata.

After just three events, COVID-19 paused the program, but the enthusiasm and engagement from the youth was already clear with over 150 attendees at the third event.

Strength and Shine begins
As COVID restrictions eased in September 2020, the Westfield and Hillsong City Care Youth teams implemented Strength and Shine as a small group, nine-week program.

The Strength and Shine program supports youth to develop a positive sense of self-worth, strength, purpose, resilience and significance. They learn how to identify and positively respond to emotions and to nurture their sense of value and recognition.

Leata said: “We invited a group of six youth to attend the program and connected with their parents to seek support when they were in their home environment in order to engage them on as many fronts as possible.

“The first week saw the youth set their own boundaries and guidelines for the safe space, which included respect, confidence, resilience, and creating a safe place without judgment or fear of speaking their voice.

“The core values of the Strength and Shine program are artistically written on the walls in our Centre Management Office, where the young people now feel a sense of ownership, respect and belonging within the centre that they didn’t have before.”

To continue to support the six graduates on their journey of self development, the Hillsong City Care Team offered opportunities to join their 12-month mentorship program during 2021 called ‘Youth Coach’.

The next phase…
Seeing the benefit of this proactive engagement on the youth, the Westfield and Hillsong teams reintroduced the Youth Safe Space program earlier this year. They started with events every three months and also connected with the local high school principals and Westfield retailers.

Leata said: “We held a retail workshop for 20 students, hosted by the Store Manager from Myer Garden City. The students were able to hear first-hand what a career in a major department store looks like and what the requirements are. 

“The students were really engaged and loved the Myer merchandise and gift cards they were given. The Store Manager is keen to continue these workshops as an avenue to recruit casual staff – which is a really positive step for these youth to potentially be considered for a casual job.”

With multiple retailers agreeing to host workshops, the frequency of the Youth Safe Space workshops is increasing from every three months to fortnightly. 

Leata finished: “It’s really heartening to know that together as a community we can make a real difference to these youth. Everyone needs community”.

In addition to Safe Space continuing, eight new students are currently being engaged to participate in the next Strength and Shine programs.

We operate our Westfield Living Centres through a customer-obsessed lens and engage with our communities in ways that are meaningful to them. Every centre has a bespoke Community Plan that identifies the opportunities, needs, local partnerships and initiatives that are most relevant to the community. In addition, we have a Youth Resilience Plan specifically designed to empower and equip our teams to help young people in the communities we serve to thrive and build resilience. 

We aim to:
  • proactively and positively engage with young people to cultivate mutual respect and positive behaviour
  • nurture inclusive and capacity building activities for youth
  • improve access for youth to connect with relevant community services.