Former Indi MP and North East resident Cathy McGowan has delivered the Kerferd Oration via live-stream for the first time in the event's history.
The MP from 2013 to 2019, academic, farmer and rural consultant was an orator previously in 2006.
The topic for her address was The Australia We Want, commissioned by the Kerferd Oration Committee and Quercus Beechworth, which found the key to encouraging young people to live and work in regional areas was meaningful connections with supportive mentors in business and the community.
Ms McGowan began speaking at 11am, starting with her purpose of the speech - "pay attention to the views and voices of the young adults in our community".
She explained the first Kerferd Oration she delivered in 2006 had a strong impact on her, changing the views of Beechworth she had gained growing up in Indigo Valley.
"I grew in confidence, but I also grew in humility, as I met many other locals, and I needed to reassess my attitude to this town, and our community," she said.
"For me, during the '50s and '60s, Beechworth was a scary place.
"First, there were the really bad vibes of being a Catholic and the fights with the Protestants, and that took some management. Then there was the prison, where the occasional convict escaped.
"Always in the background there was the Mayday Hills Asylum on the hill, and the stories told to us little kids ... often terrifying.
"However, that changed during the 2006 Kerferd conversations. I saw Beechworth with new eyes, and liked what I saw.
"The economic and social base of the community had diversified, Mayday Hills had closed, there was a new prison, there was an active arts council, entrepreneurs ... across the shire, things were also changing."
Ms McGowan said it was youth that prompted her to run for the seat of Indi as an Independent, and who helped her engage via social media.
"It came to a head over the use of social media, and in part, Twitter," she said.
[I said] it takes me a really long time to draft the Twitter, and I could sense the eye-rolling backwards in their head.
"I almost cried with frustration. For me, doing a Twitter post was a major challenge. It was then, I decided to let go ... I handed over control."
Ms McGowan believed this support resulted in her winning Indi by 439 votes.
"I couldn't believe it was the use of social media that made the critical difference ... and the vote of young people. This lesson stayed with me all the time," she said.
"I continually asked 'Where are the young people? What are they saying? What are they doing?"
The 18th Kerferd Orator listed some of the people and organisations working to empower youth in the North East, and said facilitating the vision of youth would take resources, such as better internet and public transport connectivity.
Ms McGowan said she disagreed with Prime Minister Scott Morrison's aim of "snapping back" after COVID-19.
"I don't want to go back to where we were before COVID. I truly want to move forward," she said.
"Today we have that opportunity to move forward with care, with clarity, with purpose and with intention.
"Imagine if we could make decisions now that would create a community where young adults truly know they are wanted, that they belong, that their contributions are welcomed and encouraged?"
Ms McGowan said Indigo Council were working on a training program for young people to enter local government, and that supporting the cohort at those levels was important.
She was asked how the federal government's "focus on economic outcomes" could be changed.
"I don't know the answer, to change this particular government at the moment, but longer term I do - we've got to have more young voices in parliament," Ms McGowan replied.
"When we've got an opportunity to support younger adults at the federal level, we do so - but I think it's a longer term plan, and I can see it happening, maybe eventually when Helen Haines is ready to hand over her position.
"Indigo Shire has recently declared a climate emergency. And given the strong interest in our young people in this topic, surely there's an opportunity to work with this cohort on ideas and strategies.
"Run a ticket ... and then people like me are very happy to talk to you about getting you campaign up and running."
The George Briscoe Kerferd Oration was live-streamed at www.kerferdoration.org.
Kerferd Oration Committee chair Karenne Thistleton hoped people would embrace its new delivery.
IN OTHER NEWS:
"All you need to take part in this year's Oration is an internet connection - you can view it directly from a link on our website and no bookings are required," she said.
The George Briscoe Kerferd Oration was first held in 2003 to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the naming of Beechworth.
Ms McGowan was the fourth orator and the first local, in 2006.