NSW Young Nationals chairperson Angus Webber is optimistic about the future of the party.
Speaking to Australian Community Media during the annual National Party conference in Port Macquarie last week (June 17 and 18), the Armidale-raised party official, said these were "exciting times".
"A lot of new people from all across the state, joined the Young Nationals which is exciting... for the party as a whole," he said.
"We're continuing to develop not only the future leaders of the Young Nationals but the future leaders of regional Australia."
The NSW Young Nationals have faced numerous difficulties over the past few years. In 2018, a number of members were expelled and suspended for alt-right nationalism affiliations. More recently, the isolating effects of COVID-19 and high membership costs had presented a challenge in recruiting new members.
Under Mr Webber's leadership, the Young Nationals have sought to overcome these difficulties and increase membership. This has been through initiatives such as online Zoom events with prominent party members; the creation of clubs at Newcastle and Macquarie University; and a proposal at the conference to bring memberships costs in line with other political groups such as Young Labor and Young Liberals, .
"We're continuing to attract more young people into the party," Mr Webber said.
"The Young Nationals are increasing our voice in the party. We're becoming a stronger voice for our community, for young people, for young regional people."
Despite the increase of new members, Mr Webber voiced his concern at the conference after seeing younger generations within the Liberal voting base abandoning their party.
"We, as the Nationals, need to be aware of this and proactively listen to the voices of the next generation of voters," he said.
"It's important that the Young Nationals are not viewed as an auxiliary group of the party but as a core pillar within the Nationals."
Leader of the NSW Nationals and Deputy Premier Paul Toole, who was at the Port Macquarie conference, said there was a need to focus on future generations.
"I want my kids to be able to raise a family with the education and health services that they deserve," Mr Toole said.
"I want them to look for the future and know that is bright and filled with endless opportunities, not despite where they live but because of it."
The Deputy Premier also reiterated the Party's commitment to regional projects like the great Western Highway upgrade.
"We will not allow some city-based, pencil-pushing bureaucrat to diminish our ambitions for our communities. Because the people it robs are our future generations," he said.
Mr Webber says Mr Toole is a personal mentor.
"A lot of Young Nationals look up to him and we very much share that same optimism for the future," he said.
The Young Nationals had proposed numerous motions for debate at the conference on issues ranging from vaping laws, displaced Hong Kong citizens and regional ABC newsrooms.
One such proposed motion called on the party to continue to explore options to increase female representation in the party and in parliament.
"The party has passed similar motions in the past but the intention of bringing it back up is because we want to ensure that these issue are front and centre of the party and we want to ensure we continue to promote females throughout our party," Mr Webber said.
The conference was the first of its kind to be held since 2019 after having faced cancellations in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
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