Now, more than ever, community leaders are realising that involving youth in their decision making brings a lot of positivity. Young people of the community bring fresh ideas, energy and a different perspective on how challenges and opportunities should be tackled.
This is where youth councils come in. Usually a group of 10-12 participants, members make submissions to council on matters of interest to young people, create petitions and speak at council meetings. Yet, they also bring much debate. Are they effective? Are they worth it? We’ve asked Willow Bailey, Advocacy Officer at Hutt City Youth Council, her thoughts on the topic:
“As someone who has been involved with Hutt City Youth Council since its reboot two years ago, I have benefited from it greatly. Having a youth council is a great resource for both council and the community.
I would never have thought about making a submission to council. But, I’ve now made many on major council plans. I’ve seen young people who before knew nothing about council excitedly volunteer to attend and speak at select committee meetings. My engagement in youth council has also helped my parents to gain insight into council processes – they now engage with council’s social media and events.
There is debate that working with current youth groups is a better solution, but is there structure to allow this engagement? These groups are generally for high-school students (some for senior students), but the demographic of young people also includes 18-24 year olds – adults with voting power who would continue to be excluded. Of course it would be a great idea to recruit from these groups, but it shouldn’t be the only option.
To avoid a youth council being seen as tokenistic, these voices should be taken into consideration by council. From my experience, trying to engage with people who don’t want to provide feedback is very difficult. Providing a space for people who are passionate about having their voices heard is a good first step in improving engagement all around.
It’s important to realise that young people are as much affected by changes within council as anyone else. Like many other underrepresented groups, we are generally left out of decision making processes. Changes are often made for us, and not by us, which helps no one. Having a youth council can be a strong first step in encouraging young people to engage with council processes”.
This year the youth council has been focusing on areas they feel are of high priority to young people. These include youth mental health, sustainability, climate change and encouraging young people to vote in the local body elections. If you’re passionate about social change and are between the ages of 12-24, come and join our team at the Hutt City Youth Council.