Friday, December 21, 2012

Engaging young people

At Australia21 we recognise that collaboration between seasoned experience and the fresh vision of youth is critical to Australia’s future.

As a first step in a broader youth engagement strategy we appointed two young people as honorary advisers to the Board in 2012 for a three year term. Here are their reflections on working with Australia21.

Tom Merrett

I have held the position of honorary adviser since March 2012 after having a relationship with Australia21 since 2010 when I participated in the Next Big Question project. More recently I was asked to be a youth participant for the first round table on illicit drugs, held in January. This was an excellent experience and I believe that we have made real progress by getting the tough issue of illicit drugs back on the political radar.

I am studying a Bachelor of Chemical Engineering in a double degree with Finance at the University of Adelaide. However currently I am in the middle of a semester long exchange to the National University of Singapore - which has not been all work as you can see in this photo of me exploring the volcanoes of Indonesia. It has been a great experience studying in Asia and thanks to technology (Skype) I have been able to continue to be an active participant in Australia21.

Since March I have been involved in a diverse range of discussions and projects. One of my primary contributions has been online through our website and social media. We have completely redesigned our website, making it much more user friendly and engaging. We have also begun to expand our presence into the social media space, which I see as a vital tool for not for profit organisations. We have progressed substantially, however still have a long way to go.

Another important issue for Australia21 is youth engagement. It is important not just to ensure diversity of opinions but also for the longevity of the organisation. I am currently involved in developing policies and strategies that will allow us to further engage youth in the organisation.

So far being an honorary advisor for Australia21 has been a challenging but very rewarding and interesting experience. The board members have been extremely supportive and encourage my input at every opportunity. A lot has happened since March and with some big projects under way I am very excited about the upcoming months.

Vivienne Moxham-Hall

Since my appointment as an honorary advisor to Australia21 I have been a guest at the monthly Board teleconferences, gained skills with media and met some outstanding thinkers. The role of honorary advisor is to allow youth to have a voice in the controversial polices and questions that Australia is and will be facing in the twenty-first century.

In this process I have learnt so much about the contemporary issues Australia is facing: The real research and facts of Climate Change and how much the War on Drugs has affected society. I found it astounding, the numerous impacts young people have experienced from prohibition and the damage such knee-jerk policies can have on every day people. The issue of drug prohibition is one which got me so involved in Australia21 and passionate about the work they do. The experience of being an advocate for reform you truly believe in and knowing that there are some of the greatest minds who can mentor, help and educate you, as a young person is so exciting. It has been one of the most enlightening experiences of my life and is such a privilege. I look forward to continuing to work with Australia21 with eagerness and an anticipation about what we can all achieve together.

I am completing my Master of Health Policy and in my spare time I volunteer for St John Ambulance Australia and am a volunteer Surf Lifesaver at Stanwell Park Beach. The photo here is of me and my father on our patrol.

Comment from Australia21 Chairman Paul Barratt

The honorary advisers initiative has been a great success, and I would like to thank Vivienne and Tom for the valuable new perspectives they have shared with the Board.

The next step is to talk with a wider group of young people about the best ways of working with them. We want the voices of young people to be heard in all aspects of our work, and we expect to introduce new and practical ways of achieving this in the coming year.

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