Technology shines the light on brighter youth futures at this year's Indaba

Published:16 August 2019

Mackay State High School student Kara Boys (left), Professor Pierre Viljoen, student Ben Dodds, Mayor Greg Williamson, and students Caitlyn Ebner, Kaileigh Teale and Henri Stocks at the recent Mackay-Whitsunday region Indaba.

Exploring technology issues and opportunities to help build resilience and promote positive mental health was the focal point of CQUniversity’s fourth Mackay-Whitsunday region Indaba, held recently at the University’s City campus.

In line with this year’s theme - Brighter Youth Futures Through the Eye of Technology – approximately 50 attendees, including local high school students, University staff, and general community members, discussed three main topics: social media usage, employment opportunities and social interaction skills.

Deputy Vice-Chancellor for Engagement, Campuses and Mackay-Whitsunday Region Professor Pierre Viljoen explained the Indaba was a national initiative that was undertaken annually in all communities where CQUni had a presence.

“Indaba is a term used to describe a gathering or meeting where people come together to address some of the problems that affect us all; where everyone has a voice; and where there is an attempt to find a common mind or story that everyone is able to tell when they leave,” Professor Viljoen said.

“Increasingly, governments and major industries are looking for whole-of-community support for projects before they back initiatives and/or commit funding to them; thus, regional collaboration such as this is integral to facilitating growth and opportunity.”

The event included two guest speakers: Mackay Police Officer, Sergeant Nigel Dalton, and Headspace Mackay Clinical Centre Manager and Psychologist, Mr Philip Ward.

Mr Ward said the event was an extremely useful opportunity to listen to the important views of young people.

“The overall message that I received from young people, in respect to social media, and social interactions/skills was that; technology is an important part of our lives but some of the negative consequences have only just been identified,” he said.

“One example raised was that a young person may spend many hours using social media and or using computer games, which in turn influences a lack of physical and social interaction, and creates a lack of confidence and increases their likelihood of experiencing mental health issues."

Mr Ward said the robust discussions helped individuals to speak up and share their own experiences with social media.

"One participant stated that social media has created a lack of trust for her. With this lack of trust, she confessed that she has become paranoid. She further stated that this could lead to a lack of trust in intimate relationships and could possibly be the same reason as to why there are so many failed relationships, in society, today,” he said

“She posed the possibility that with so many failing relationships, this could have an impact on young children, which in turn could influence bad behaviour in schools and at home. This could lead to unsatisfactory school grades and lead to unemployment in the future.”

Mr Ward said the opinions expressed by the young people at the Indaba event were generally insightful and objective.

“Just as there were some negative examples, there were equally some positive examples where social media has allowed sustainability of friendships, and where the multitude of available apps assist us in our day to day lives,” he said.

“I certainly hope that I am invited to any subsequent Indaba events in the future.”

Information, suggestions and proposed strategies tabled at the 2019 Mackay-Whitsunday Region Indaba are presently being collated and will be shared amongst participants. Information is also available by emailing