Pictured: Wonthaggi Secondary College Youth Parliament team (from left) Silvie Starlight, Miora Trainor, Michelle Porteous, Jacinta Woodcock, Jack Mendes and Tahlia Caccamo.
Victoria’s future parliamentarians made their voices heard last week during the 2018 YMCA Youth Parliament program. Now in the program’s 32nd year, 20 teams gathered from across the state to stand up and passionately debate their bill in Victoria Parliament House.
Over the three-day event, teams debated and voted on issues such as family violence prevention, public availability of sanitary products and lowering the free breast screening age.
As well as debating their drafted bill, participants had the opportunity to deliver a speech on additional topics they are personally passionate about during adjournment debates. The speeches were passed on to various members of parliament to whom they were addressed, truly making our young people’s voices heard.
Issues such as reducing the number of Indigenous youth in detention, the inclusion of Indigenous history in Victorian school curriculums and providing a better education for remote Indigenous communities were all discussed in the Legislative Assembly.
It was during these speeches the young participants demonstrated how passionate they are about not only issues that affect our state, but also about the program.
“Last year on the Thursday night I had one of the most depressive episodes of my life. Two taskforce members who I’d hardly spoken to, they helped me,” said one participant, who dedicated his speech to the importance of the program.
“It was at Youth Parliament that I cried for the first time since grade six. And it wasn’t from sadness, but from feeling acceptance.”
Running alongside the Youth Parliament program, Press Gallery participants successfully amplified the voices of the young parliamentarians. Comprising of 22 aspiring young journalists, Press Gallery participants supported the Youth Parliament teams through interviews, pitching and writing stories for Victorian media outlets. The participants had their articles published in outlets such as Bendigo Advertiser, Border Mail, Wangaratta Chronicle and Knox Leader.
The astounding outcomes from the Press Gallery couldn’t have been achieved without the Press Gallery Director, Hannah Andrews, who participated in the inaugural 2014 Press Gallery program.
“It was fantastic seeing Press Gallery achieve real, tangible results such as getting their stories and photographs published in newspapers or having their videos rack up thousands of views online,” said Hannah.
“Working closely with these amazing young people has left me feeling very positive about the future of Australian journalism.”
During the closing ceremony on Thursday, participants heard inspiring speeches from 2018 Youth Governor, James Abbott, YMCA Board Member, Olly Tripodi and Minister for Families, Children and Youth Affairs, the Hon. Jenny Mikakos.
James Abbott highlighted that young people strive to make our community a better place. And, with 19 of the 20 bills being passed, all they need is to be heard.
“What do young people want? They want to be heard, be taken seriously and make a difference. Youth Parliament does just that,” said James.
James proudly passed on the honour of Youth Governor to Olivia Beasley, 19, who was announced as the 2019 Youth Governor for Youth Parliament during the closing ceremony.
“I’m looking forward to unpacking more of the challenges, to include more culturally diverse people, to include people who have disabilities and also to improve the gender balance,” said Olivia.
At the close of this year’s event, 120 young people handed over 19 passed bills to the Minister for Families, Children and Youth Affairs, Jenny Mikakos to be considered by State Government.
“The YMCA Victoria Youth Parliament is a chance for young people to have their voices heard at the highest level of State Government, and to enact meaningful and sustainable change,” said Mikakos.
A special thank you to Rebecca Brooker for an outstanding job as Youth Parliament Program Director for the past two years.