Meet Ravi, Community Champion for ‘heathier future’ project

By Our Reporter
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Ravi is part of Future Healthy, a VicHealth project to create heathier communities. Pic supplied.

Like many others, Ravi, a 26-year-old international student, moved to Melbourne from India, all by himself and without any family here.

“When you’re in a place that you don’t relate to, it is so foreign to you,” says Ravi, who identifies as LGBTIQ+.

But for Ravi what makes it home, is having connections around you. He believes “social circles of people who actually understand you, who actually get you” are vital for mental health and a sense of belonging. But they can be difficult to find.

And judgement based on language or appearance can be an obstacle.

“Language is definitely a big barrier. We are often judged by the way we speak, our accent, the way we look.”

Creating networks for young people online, especially if they are separated from family or LGBTIQ+ young people who haven’t come out to their family, can help them feel safe and included.

“Online social networks, where people can be themselves, express themselves, and have safe and inclusive spaces where people who can confidently say what they feel, think and get that sense of belonging and community—those social spaces are extremely important,” says Ravi.

Recognising these needs, VicHealth has just launched its first-of-its-kind initiative Future Healthy focused on creating a heathier future for Victoria’s young people.

As part of Future Healthy, VicHealth is working with 14 Community Champions – a diverse group of young people and parents from right across the state who are passionate about creating healthier communities.

Ravi, a Community Champion, along with other champions, will work with Future Healthy to empower more young people and parents to have their say and help shape the solutions needed for people to lead healthier, happier lives.

As coronavirus continues to affect the health and wellbeing of young people, Future Healthy will invest $45million in new programs over 3 years to support people aged 0-25 to begin to build back better: reconnect socially and safely, get active, and access and enjoy good food.

This month, VicHealth will work with thousands of young people in developing this healthier vision together. Young people and parents and carers in Victoria’s Indian community are encouraged to have their say on what a healthy future looks like at futurehealthy.vichealth.vic.gov.au

The projects delivered through Future Healthy will then be created in direct response to the ideas and needs that young people share.

The announcement comes as a new VicHealth survey reveals 2 in 3 (68%) of Victoria’s young people aged 18-25 believe they have a role to play in helping plan and create healthier local communities.

Minister for Health and Aged Care Martin Foley says Future Healthy will work with Victoria’s young people and grassroots community organisations across the state towards a vision where no young person is denied a future that is healthy.

“Future Healthy is a strong signal of our support and commitment to the health of young people right across Victoria. It’s about giving them the tools and agency to envision a future that supports their health and wellbeing,” Foley said.

“We want young people and parents and carers, regardless of their postcode, bank balance, background or ability, to share their ideas for a healthier Victoria. We’ll then back those ideas, with the largest single health promotion investment of its kind, from VicHealth.”

VicHealth CEO Dr Sandro Demaio said the unprecedented health promotion investment comes after what has been an incredibly challenging 18 months, particularly for young people.

“The ongoing impacts of the bushfires, coronavirus pandemic and social upheaval have continued to weigh on the mental and physical health and wellbeing of Victoria’s young people” Dr Demaio said.

“The first phase of Future Healthy is about listening—we’re asking people from the Indian community aged 18-25 and parents and carers to join us in creating the solutions together that will promise a healthier future for all. We’ll be listening and learning as you share with us what we need to do to make happier, healthier living a reality for every young person.”


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