SUBJECTS: Youth Advisory Panel; Mental health and STEM policies; Housing Australia Future Fund.
DAVE MARCHESE, HOST: So just before the Federal election last year, we spoke to Anthony Albanese, you might remember, and I asked him how he was going to rewind the confidence of young people if he was elected Prime Minister. This is what he had to say.
ANTHONY ALBANESE: We'll engage with young people directly. We'll create an office of Youth Affairs in the federal government. We'll create direct consultation with young people and representatives on that board.
MARCHESE: So it's coming up to a year since the election and I've been wondering what's happening with that. Where are these youth advisors? Well, there's been some work going on and young Australians are going to have the opportunity to speak directly to Ministers about issues like climate change, mental health, safety. But how much of a say will they have? Are the politicians going to actually listen? That's the big question. We're going to try and speak to the Youth Minister, Anne Aly, soon.
But first, here's Shalailah Medhora. She's been catching up with some of these youth advisors to find out what kinds of things they're hoping to get out of this experience and whether they're confident.
BODHI WAITE: Yeah, I'm really hoping that I, or all of us in this group, can get a bit of a more direct line to politicians and government. Hey, my name is Bodhi Waite. I'm 17. I'm currently on the Sunshine Coast and I'm just doing my Year 12.
SHALAILAH MEDHORA, REPORTER: Bodhi has always been super passionate about stopping climate change. He thinks it's because of the big role the outdoors played in his upbringing.
WAITE: Being in the city for half of my life and then being in the country and then now I've moved to Queensland and nature is just a huge part of everything that people do up here and it's definitely given me a bit of a drive to get involved.
MEDHORA: Bodhi wanted to be part of the solution, so he put his hand up to be in the Government's new Youth Advisory Group on climate change. His big push is for governments to move away from fossil fuel industries and put more education resources in clean energy industries.
WAITE: For me personally, a climate jobs guarantee is one of my big ticket items that I'd really like to work towards.
MEDHORA: He hopes that governments will take young people's concerns on climate change seriously.
WAITE: Young people are definitely a lot more engaged in things like this, and I think it's because we have a very future-focused kind of outlook.
IPSHITA PRATAP: In 2018, I was diagnosed with severe depression, anxiety and suicidal [indistinct] tendencies. So it really changed my outlook towards life. My name is Ipshita Pratap and I'm from Tasmania. I'm 24 years old.
MEDHORA: Ipshita is studying molecular biology at UTAS and for the last few years she's been part of an outreach team helping students with their mental health.
PRATAP: We are acting as these checkpoints in our community.
MEDHORA: She's really passionate about educating people about mental health, especially multicultural communities.
PRATAP: Once we get to educate people in an empathetic way. That's how we can start breaking those barriers.
MEDHORA: Ipshita decided to apply for the Youth Advisory Group on Mental Health because she thinks people with lived experience of mental ill health like herself have the most to say about policies and services.
PRATAP: At the end of the day, it's the experience that matters.
MEDHORA: Lived experience is really important to Aloyiscois too.
ALOYISCOIS HAYES: Hi, my name is Aloyiscois Hayes and I am 19 years old and I work at youth program as a youth worker at Finke Aputula community which is south of Alice Springs, two hours drive.
MEDHORA: He wanted to be part of the Youth Advisory Group on First Nations policy so that the voices of people outside the major cities were represented.
HAYES: To speak to my experience of being a young Aboriginal person growing up in a remote community.
MEDHORA: Countering racism is a big thing for him.
HAYES: In Alice Springs. As a young Aboriginal person, we get stared at like we are up to no good, made to feel not welcome.
MEDHORA: Aloyiscois is going to push for more money to keep young people in community.
HAYES: Have some funding for education back in communities like a high school so they can stay back in communities and fundings for youth programs. Just keep the culture strong, I guess.
Voiceover: Hack on Triple J.
MARCHESE: Shalailah Medhora with that story. We're hoping to speak to the Youth Minister Anne Aly. She's caught up in Parliament, it happens sometimes. Get busy, don’t have enough time to rush to the studio. We'll see if we can get her later in the programme.
Someone's messaged in, says, ‘Politicians already ignore top scientists. Why would they listen to teenagers?’. Hey look, it's a question we will put to the Minister when we get a chance to have a chat with her.
MARCHESE: We heard Shalailah Medhora's report a bit earlier about youth advisors that have been announced that will be speaking directly with Ministers in the Government. It was kind of a promise that we heard Anthony Albanese talk to us about before the election, that young people would have a direct method of communication to Ministers, people in power. Let's find out more about how this is all going to work. We've got Anne Aly with us. Australia's Youth Minister. Minister, thanks for coming on Hack.
MINISTER ANNE ALY: Thanks so much, Dave. I note that I'm following an astrophysicist, so no pressure.
MARCHESE: No pressure. You've been a bit busy this afternoon, always stuff happening in Parliament.
MARCHESE: We heard a bit earlier from some of the young Australians who are going to be in these youth advisory positions. There are 40, they're going to be in five groups. How were they selected?
ALY: Well, first of all, the advisory groups themselves and the issues that they were covered were selected by our Youth Steering Committee, which is made up of 15 young people. So in consultation with them, we asked them, what are the issues that matter to young people? And they gave us a range of issues. We then went to different Departments and we said, if you had a youth advisory committee, what specific projects would you get them working on and what would you be able to offer them? Because that was a really important part of it, that we don't just set up these advisory committees to just be there, but to actually do some substantive piece of work. We then, through the Australian Youth Affairs Coalition, which is the peak body, put out expressions of interest and invited people to apply. We got, I think, around 900 applications for those five advisory groups. And I wasn't involved in the process of selecting them, it was a very independent process of selecting who would be on those groups. And I'm really pleased with the composition of those groups. We have young people from rural, regional, remote areas. We've got young people who have lived experience of mental health, lived experience of being carers. We've got such a great diverse group of young people, and every advisory group has somebody represented from each state and territory.
MARCHESE: Okay, so when we say advising, though, what does that actually mean? What will these young people be able to say? How much access are they going to have to people in charge, the ministers?
ALY: Well, I can give you a concrete example of that. So, for example, the Mental Health and Suicide Prevention Youth Advisory Group is going to work with the National Mental Health Commission and they're going to be looking at how digital technologies, including social media, have an impact on young people's mental health and wellbeing. And they're going to do that work to identify ways in which technology has positive or negative impacts and what we can be doing better to support young people in that space. That's one example. The Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics Youth Advisory Group members, they're going to be working actively with Questacon, the National Science and Technology Centre. And what they're actually going to be doing is working on the design of new experiences for Questacon to better engage and attract young people, but also looking at addressing barriers to participation and inspiring future generations in STEM. So they're real, concrete things that they're working on.
MARCHESE: With some of those bigger issues, though, what happens if what the young people are saying goes against the Government's plans? Like, is the Government actually going to change its policy?
ALY: Well, I think the important thing is that young people have a say and that we're listening to them. Obviously, not everything that the young people are going to say is going to be possible or accepted, but that's not the important part of it. The important part of it is that they're there, they're at the table and they have a real voice at that table.
MARCHESE: I mean, they're going to want to have some of their thoughts implemented, I would think, because there would be sceptics out there who think, oh, well, it's good for the Government to point to this and say, we are listening to young people, but is it actually more about looking like you're listening?
ALY: Well, Dave, that's the very reason why we went out to departments and asked them, what are you going to do with these advisory groups? And if a Department came back and said, oh, look, maybe we'll do this or that, we didn't follow that up. We really wanted concrete projects that young people could work on and have their input on. Now, in any process, when you have diverse voices, even amongst the young people themselves there's going to be diversity in how they might approach something or in the solutions that they think might work. But that's the process, isn't it? And what a great opportunity and what a great learning experience for anyone, young or old, to be involved in a process of policymaking where you negotiate, where you can put ideas forward and when you come up with a position that everyone can agree on.
MARCHESE: Minister, just quickly, you represent young people as the Minister for Youth. One of the biggest issues for young Australians is housing. The Government is in a bit of a tight situation at the moment because you've got this plan, the Housing Australia Future Fund, that would help fund 30 thousand social and affordable homes. But the Greens have got issues with it. They say this fund doesn't stack up, it's not going to provide enough funding, it doesn't offer any support for renters and they're threatening not to support it. Do you think the Government needs to go back to the drawing board to come up with something that is going to support young people in housing stress?
ALY: I think that every minute that we wait, then – what we're saying now, we know that young people experience homelessness. We don't know the exact numbers because there are a lot of young people who are sleeping rough and they're not counted if they're couch-surfing, for example. This is an ambitious housing reform agenda and we want it to work. We want young people, we want women and children who are escaping family and domestic violence, we want people, to have access to affordable housing. Every minute that the Greens waiver on this is a minute longer that we can't build the houses that are necessary for vulnerable people.
MARCHESE: We're going to have to leave it there. Youth Minister Anne Aly, thank you very much for joining us. We're out of time, unfortunately, but appreciate you coming on Hack.
ALY: Thanks so much, Dave. Always great to be with you.