Jo Malcolm–Black is the CEO of The Youth Junction Inc. working with and for vulnerable Victorian young people to support choices in education and employment, and the reduction of disadvantage. TYJ advocates around systemic blockages and works to support systemic literacy in young people through a range of collaborative, innovative and integrated service responses, many of which are based in the West.

Jo hasn’t been a “westie” long, she’s a Kiwi and joined TYJ during the pandemic.

I was really lucky to be appointed to this role which has given me a little bit of time to get the feel of the west, and get to know the organisation, the Visy Cares Hub and the local community. It feels a lot like home already!”

When Jo and her family came here from New Zealand almost five years ago she immediately loved how multi-cultural it was – for a Kiwi, the presence of Pacifica people here was the icing on the cake, as was the lack of earthquakes!

Being based out of the Visy Cares Hub is special for Jo. Everyone knows the Hub, and for the West, and for Sunshine it is a significant building, being one of the original homes of the Sunshine Harvester, for which the suburb is named. It’s a welcoming place and Jo loves having lots of people on site.

What was pretty interesting for me was that I grew up on a farm in Christchurch and we had a sunshine harvester in the shed, so it is a karmic turn of events to come to this location as an adult!”

But Jo has already seen change in her short time here.

I started working in Sunshine just before the second lockdown so I am really happy to have been able to see the transition out of that. Having more people safely on the street, having more businesses with people on site, and actually just being able to see faces and talk in person has really helped create a sense of community for me.”

For small daily joys Jo likes to get out and take a walk during the day. With everything so close, she can usually pick up anything that she needs or wants.

There’s a theory that everyone in the world has only six social connections away from other people – only six degrees of separation. What I’ve noticed is that in the West that it is possible to see that. You can run into people that you know in the street and catch up, and have connections in common. That sense of connection creates a sense of belonging, and often can assist others. The Visy Cares Hub hopefully creates some of that for young people in the west. “

The Granary Café is a favourite hangout, and Jo loves the range of food available all around Sunshine. Jo is still exploring the West and always learning something new. Her hope is that The Youth Junction is involved in community initiatives and activities and that they can connect and ground young people to the west, with lots of local opportunities, jobs and education that will use everything that young people have to offer.