Interview - Julia André, ABC North West Queensland
JULIA ANDRÈ: The Youth Steering Committee is a very exciting thing. It’s part of our commitment to include the voices of young people in how we drive and shape the things that we do in government. And the purpose of the youth committee is to really drive our new Youth Engagement Model. It’s going to provide advice and feedback on government engagement with young people, including advice and feedback on policies and programs that are of most interest to young people.
The committee members, those who are chosen to be on the committee, will also gain some advisory group experience. They’ll get to expand their network and they’ll receive training to assist their participation in the committee.
It’s supported by the Australian Youth Affairs Coalition. We gave them $400,000 of funding in June this year to support their – our engagement with young people. So so far we’ve already received just over 500 applications from right across Australia, and I’m super-duper pleased with the response so far. But we’d like to continue to encourage anyone who’s thinking of applying to put in their application by the 5th of October.
ANDRÈ: What kind of applicants are you looking for? What’s the age range like?
ANNE ALY: So, we’re looking for applicants between the ages of 12 and 25. So anyone living between – anyone living in Australia between the ages of 12 and 25 can apply. But what we really want to ensure is that it’s representative of young people and the diversity of young people in Australia. I think that’s really important to recognise – that the youth isn’t just a homogenous group. So we’re looking at a range of young people from different backgrounds, different lived experiences. And also we want people to share their motivation for why they want to be on the committee, any kind of relevant skills or experiences they have.
But I do want to stress that no previous experience is required. What we really want to put together is a committee that’s able to drive advice to government policy and that’s really reflective of our country and young people in our country.
ANDRÈ: And do you have a set number for this committee or are you willing to be flexible with the applicants that you get?
ALY: The number that we’re looking for is up to 15 young people between ages 12 and 25, as I mentioned. But once they’re appointed they’re going to meet with the Department of Education, they’ll meet with my office beginning in November. And they’re going to be the ones who will work with the Office for Youth to look at the terms of their committee, to elect the chairperson, to look at the frequency of meetings and really set their own kind of work schedule.
ANDRÈ: What kind of issues do you expect the committee to cover?
ALY: Well, we know that young people are concerned about a range of issues. And, in fact, recent research shows that young people are concerned primarily with cost of living, climate, but also youth mental health is an issue as well. So I really want them to tell me what the issues are that concern them. You know, for the last 10 years young people haven’t had a chance to have a say in government policy. There has been no Office of Youth and no Federal Youth Engagement Model. Here’s an opportunity now, and I want to use this opportunity with everything that I have to give young people that chance, to give young people a seat at the table. And, really, this is all about listening to young people about what matters to them.
ANDRÈ: Our station covers quite a remote area of Australia. How are you encouraging Australians from those more regional and remote parts of Australia to be involved in this?
ALY: Well, the good news is that, you know, we definitely want to see representation across regional, rural and remote Australia in the committee’s membership. And the good news is that of the 500 or so applications that we’ve got so far around 25 per cent of those applications indicate that they are from a rural, regional or remote area. I reckon that’s pretty good. But we want to encourage more young people in rural, regional and remote areas to apply to be on the Steering Committee. And they can do that through the Australian Youth Affairs Coalition website.
So, you know, anyone out there listening who’s thinking, “Oh, you know, I’d like to do this but I’m not really sure,” please do. I’d encourage you to get on to the Australian Youth Affairs Coalition website and put in your application.
ANDRÈ: And has this been – is this the first committee of its kind that has gone to work in the Australian Parliament?
ALY: It was 10 years ago or so was the last time we had anything like this. And, in fact, in 2013 Tony Abbott when he was Prime Minister abolished the Office for Youth, the federal Office for Youth. So there hasn’t really been any kind of youth engagement mechanism, including a Youth Steering Committee, at the federal level since then. Some states, including Queensland, have some really good models for youth advisory group and have had some success with similar advisory groups. But nothing really at the federal level for at least a decade, which is a travesty really.
ANDRÈ: And what do you expect to achieve from this committee?
ALY: Well, what we’re hoping to achieve in the first term is for them to work really closely with my office and with the Department of Education to embed engagement with young people on policy and program design right across government. So, you know, the first year at least will be working on, you know, how do we really engage young people and use the Youth Steering Committee to really engage young people so that when we develop policy and when we develop programs or when legislation comes up young people are considered in that and the issues that matter to young people are considered in that. And that’s the development of the youth engagement model and the youth – that I’ve been talking about which will be the primary first task for the Youth Steering Committee.
ANDRÈ: Minister for Youth Dr Anne Aly speaking.