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This Is Northern New South Wales

Nicqui Yazdi

Nicqui Yazdi is a very special lady in the Byron Bay Community. So we thought we would take a few moments to ask Nicqui about her life here in Byron Bay. You can listen to Nicqui on Bay FM every Wednesday 9-11am by tuning into her show “2481 Undone“.

CG – How long have you lived in Byron? Where did you move from?

Nicqui – I’ve been in Byron for over 13 years now, after a small stint in the hills behind Mullumbimby. I grew up in Toowoomba, but spent many years in Brisbane. I’d been coming to Byron ever since I was in my early 20’s  and always loved it here but it wasn’t until my eldest daughter was about to start high school, that I had one of those ‘ah ha’ moments. I was driving through Mullumbimby, on my way to see a friend at Myocum and there were a lot of cars at the High School. I was curious, so I stopped and walked into the auditorium and witnessed the year 12 graduation. It was a really special event, the people were special and I just knew there and then, that I’d found where I wanted to finish raising my daughters. I packed up over christmas and moved here in January.

CG – What is it about Byron that makes you, and others stay?

Nicqui – It’s the first place that I’ve ever felt truly at home. I came here as a single mother and knew it was a place where I could raise my daughters with a small footprint and still have all the best things that life has to offer. The beaches and the contrasting mountains are spectacular and this place never ceases to amaze me in it’s beauty. And I just love the people here, I can’t imagine wanting to ever live anywhere else.

I think the thing that makes me want to stay, is the sense of community that we have here. Even short term visitors feel it. We have a connection that you find in very few places. This region pioneers causes and innovative solutions to problems that effect not only our own community, but the greater global one as well. It is a town full of future-minded people, championing these causes way ahead of the rest of the world. Yet so many of these things are also remnants of the hippy forefathers that others seem to have forgotten about.

CG – Tell us about some of the initiatives your working on within the Byron community?

Nicqui – I have done a lot of one-off projects and events with BUDDI (Byron Underage Drinking & Drug Initiative – Community Drug Action Team) since it was formed 4 years ago, from forums to school holiday workshops and also presenting and supporting a lot of youth events with volunteers. The biggest of which of course is Schoolies. It was an idea that I had and thankfully the community got behind and supported it and we have now had two successful years of the Byron Schoolies Safety Response and the Schoolies HUB. It is a big thing having 10,000 young school leavers coming here to our little coastal village to celebrate the end of Year 12 and of course there’s not a lot for them to do, except to hopefully chill out and enjoy our special vibe. But they’re young and they’re here to party, so making sure that they play it safe while they are here and have 24 hour access to help, not only protects them, but it also protects our own community and especially our own young people.

It’s something that I now work on all year round, looking for funds and figuring out how we should be going with this in the future, because it’s only going to get bigger. Byron is, after all, a tourist town and these are the youngest of our tourists and often it is their first holiday on their own and can also be their scariest, so we need to treat them as we would our own and look after them.

On another note, I have also been lucky enough to have been able to work closely with Byron Youth Service over a number of years now. Although I’m not employed by BYS, I am able to put together events and programs under their auspice with the work I do with BUDDI and we do team up on many things. I have assisted them to obtain a few grants to get some really important things off the ground here, which has been incredibly rewarding. And of course I also support a lot of their initiatives as well.

We recently did the Breathaliser Stalls at the exits to the BluesFest for the second year in a row, making sure that the patrons checked their alcohol levels before getting into their vehicles. It is a really great service and so many people were so happy that we did this. It’s also a great way to educate people about something they should all know more about. Byron has the highest number of alcohol related driving offences in all of NSW and has done for over 10 years now, and most of those are actually locals!

My pet project is ‘Friday Nights @ the YAC’ which has been running for two years now. We open the YAC up on Friday nights from 5-10pm for young people aged 12-17 to drop-in, have some food, play games, watch movies, use the music room and just generally hang out.  We use youth workers from BYS and some BUDDI Team Members and just offer young people an alternative to walking the streets and getting into trouble. We have anywhere up to 30-50 teens drop in. One of the best things, is that we still get up to about 20 of those that started coming on the very first night. I think this shows that it works and it’s something that they really want.

CG – Why have you chose to walk this path, offering yourself to help others?

Nicqui – I think there are two main reasons that have led me down the path I’m currently on. One was the death of a very dear friend who chose to end her life by suicide. It really knocked me, so I started researching suicide prevention and mental health and kind of fell into the work that I now do with my own business, the MindRight Institute. I specialise in teaching the Mental Health First Aid programs and truly believe that everyone should have this training, particularly in this region. It really does save lives. By knowing the signs and symptoms of emerging mental illness and what to do in crisis situations, means that you can help people right at the very earliest onset of problems. Early intervention is very much the key term in mental health now and there is nothing as grass roots as these training programs. We all have times where we need others to help us. Teens are the ones that need the most help when it comes to mental health problems and one of the courses that I teach is the Youth Mental Health First Aid training for adults living or working with youth. It is by far the most popular course.

The other thing that has had probably the hugest influence on the work that I do in community, is my daughters. They are 10 years apart in age and I noticed that there was very little for my eldest daughter to do here in her teens and many of her friends did find themselves getting lost in those teenage years. When my younger daughter was approaching her teens, I really wanted to change that for her and her friends. I don’t know that it was a choice, it seemed to be something that I was really driven to do. Young people are our future and they should have every opportunity for it to be a safe and happy future.

Another thing, as much as I love it here, I also see that because so many others love to come here to holiday and party, the local community actually suffers from this attention. Our young people are surrounded by unrealistic images of the alcohol and drug culture that comes with this attention, so being pro-active and making sure that we look after our community is something that also really drives me.

CG – How important is community?

Nicqui – There in nothing as important as community. The community here is just like a big family and everyone has their own role in it. We look out for each other and look after each other and in our own way we do have an impact on that greater global community too. Byron and the Northern Rivers has more community volunteers than any other region in Australia and they’re not just working here, they are spread all over the world doing great things everywhere. I learned a long time ago that giving a little can have a great return. We all have something to give. Sharing the load means that those that are in need, always have something or someone that is there, willing and able to help. And they, in turn, are often the ones that then go on to help others. It’s a truly wonderful thing, paying it forward. Volunteering really makes the world a better place.

You can listen to Nicqui on Bay FM every Wednesday 9-11am by tuning into her show “2481 Undone“.