Pictured: Youth parliamentarians debating in the Legislative Council during the 2019 YMCA Victoria Youth Parliament program.
Passionate, informed and respectful. These are three words you could use to describe the 33rd cohort of the 2019 YMCA Victoria Youth Parliament program.
Each year, 20 teams of young Victorians head to Parliament House to make their voices heard by debating on issues important to them. Prior to their debut in the Legislative Council or Legislative Assembly, participants draft a bill within the remit of Victorian lawmaking, as well as prepare a two-minute speech on an additional topic to present during adjournment debates.
There are no political parties and no electorates, which allows the 120 youth parliamentarians to focus solely on the proposed bills.
At the opening ceremony of the program, the Minister for Youth Gabrielle Williams and Shadow Minister for Youth Affairs Cindy McLeish motivated the youth parliamentarians in their welcoming speeches. Youth Governor Olivia Beasley also made history when she delivered her opening address in Auslan.
“This is a big week for you,” she told the youth parliamentarians.
“You will feel so empowered and so much more confident moving forward. There may be some roadblocks that you come across, but know that you have the passion and ability to work through these.”
Over the course of the three days, teams debated and voted on bills covering issues such as mental health days in secondary schools, pill testing at music festivals and a recyclable container refund scheme.
Although some of the debates were heated, the program wrapped up on a high with all 20 bills being passed. These bills will now be handed to the relevant Ministers, which provides them with insight into the issues that are important to young Victorians, and potentially influence state legislation. Over the course of YMCA Victoria Youth Parliament’s 33-year history, over 30 pieces of state legislation have originated from the program including Mandatory Wearing of a Bicycle Helmet and Gun Reformation Laws.
At the closing ceremony, youth parliamentarians were once again joined by Gabrielle Williams MP and Cindy McLeish MP, as well as YMCA Victoria Executive Mission and Global Peter Burns.
“You are not our future leaders; you are our leaders today. You are representing the issues impacting your community, and more importantly you are amplifying the voices of young people,” said Peter.
It is tradition for the Youth Governor to announce their successor at the end of the ceremony, and it was with a big smile that Olivia announced Nicholas Steer as the 2020 Youth Governor.
Congratulations to all youth parliamentarians, and a special thank you to the amazing group of volunteers who run the program!
Pictured: The 2019 YMCA Victoria Youth Parliament participants holding a banner in Parliament House.