Event for a New Generation
How Port Macquarie channeled the talent and energy of its young people to create an event for them, by them and to inspire them in unlocking the future.
Port Macquarie is an upbeat coastal community, lively, prosperous and enviable in its coastal lifestyle. In the past, many young people used to leave the area to pursue their education and careers in capital cities.
Back in 2012, at an Educational Leaders forum at the Port Macquarie campus of Charles Sturt University, a group of educators, government and local business people decided that they had to stop talking and take action to improve prospects for young people in the region and encourage youth leadership.
The Mid North Coast of NSW is home to three universities, a diverse industry base offering many opportunities and a culture that celebrates creativity, food, wine, the arts – and the joy of surfing. But something was missing.
The leaders formed themselves into a working group - Luminosity Youth Inc. under the chairmanship of a young local event professional named Kate Wood-Foye. Their goal was to create a corporate-style youth summit bringing experts and leaders in their field to regional Port Macquarie to take part in a professional development program aimed purely at 15 to 25 year olds.
As Ms Wood Foye explained, it was a practical and inspiring proposition for the youth of the area: “This meant no costly travel to the city and it gave them equal access to inspirational, high-level metropolitan speakers.” It would also provide opportunities for young volunteers to work on a successful and creative project mentored by professionals and also help to position Port Macquarie as a centre of youth, energy and opportunity.
Making it Happen
The Committee set to work by first garnering foundation support from the Mid North Coast Local Health District, Rydges Port Macquarie, Charles Sturt University and the Holiday Coast Credit Union. The next step was to consult the youth of the area.
“We created BIG THINK TANK where we invited young people from across the Mid North Coast to share ideas and thoughts on what regional youth excellence meant to them and how we could improve prospects for young people in our region,” Ms Wood-Foye said.
The insights from this event helped organisers develop the first Luminosity program in a way that was highly relevant to the needs and interests of their audience and that was also very fresh in its approach.
The first Luminosity event took place in 2013; a high-level, executive program aimed at young entrepreneurs, artists, journalists, athletes, scientists, musicians and academics.
Organisers knew that young people identify early with their aspirations and there was no talking down to this audience; many of the presenters were young leaders all of whom had achieved the extraordinary.
The sessions were informative, interactive and linked to technology to be downloaded or shared across social media. Presentation content ranged from big societal issue to personal empowerment – the emphasis was on ‘dangerous ideas’: thinking big, daring to dream and create, taking calculated risks to achieve success.
Two of the more unique aspects of the conference involved the social program which included an ‘ Open Mic’ night where participants were encouraged to share their talents; and ‘After Hours Master Classes’ with activities ranging from dance to circus and beatbox vocal looping.
It proved to be a winning formula with the success of the first conference ensuring that it became an annual event.
Over the past four years the line-up of speakers has included Australian and international participants from all walks of life, including Canadian place-making specialist Peter Kageyama, Alison Langdon of 60 Minutes, Dan Flynn, the CEO and founder of Thank You Water, Lorraine Murphy, influencer and blogger of the Remarkables Group, Samantha Wills, international jewellery designer and entrepreneur, Faustina ‘The Fuzz’ Agoli, media personality and DJ, Bliss and Esso, Jack Delosa, the CEO and founder of the Entourage, Andrew Morello of Yellow Brick Road and winner of the first Australian Apprentice, and Kurt multi-Paralympic gold medallist, Maz Compton, MTV and radio personality, Lisa Harvey- Smith, ultramarathon runner and astrophysicist, Cas and Jonesy, Artic and cross- Tasman adventurers.
2017 and Beyond
The ultimate goal for Luminosity is to develop the event to be a ‘national summit’, according to Ms Wood-Foye. “The big picture is to have youth attendees not just from the local region but from all over Australia. We want Port Macquarie to be considered to be the inspirational hub for youth from all walks of life,”she said.
In 2017 the conference will welcome its first international delegates from New Zealand and, as Ms Wood-Foye summed it up, “Our reach is extending beyond our expectations.”