One of the challenges of youth work is the disconnect between youth engagement and real change. Too often are project and policy recommendations put to one side and labelled as “nice-to-haves” rather than “need-to-haves.”The national youth roundtable looked to change that, bringing the voices of young people into Government development agenda.
MoHow was brought onto the project in 2005 with a challenge to revamp the roundtable and facilitate youth engagement. Mo did this by leading six facilitators working with 30 young Australians in 2005/6, 50 in 2007/7 with an additional National Youth Indigenous Roundtable incorporated. Broadly speaking this had the goal of enabling real change in response to youth voices and becoming a beacon for how the youth and Government could work together, in existing structures, to create change.
In response to this challenge, MoHow facilitated a consultation process where the young members of the roundtable would go into the Australian Government and consult on active projects and topics of government.By empowering these diverse voices to be heard at the highest levels of government ensured that real change was facilitated. The National Youth Roundtable became a powerful statement of intention by the Australian Government to take young people’s voices seriously. While not perfect, it showed that it is better to do something small well rather than to make grand statements of intent without the infrastructure to back such.
Special features of the MoHow facilitated National Youth Roundtable was the opportunity for young people to identify their own priority projects. The key innovation was to then provide those young people with direct access to government departments and the ‘hot topics’ of government. The result was a gradual but powerful move towards young Australians sitting with Australia’s cabinet at critical moments in Australia’s modern history.
A key to the National Youth Roundtable was the role played by the National Youth Bureau in connecting young people into government and the real activities of Government Departments. One such example was the contribution that young people on the Roundtable made to a key marriage equality policy at the time. In this case, a member of the Cabinet responded by inviting the young man to become an advisor. Not policy changing in itself but possibly one of the unseen pre moments of change.
Not always did the initiatives developed by young people fit with current government policy. But witnessing the presentation on marriage equality that was 10 years ahead of its time still had an impact. Granted, it is not always possible to simply remove and replace complex systems of Government, however, the need for a national mechanism to support youth growth and engagement was highlighted.
The correct intersection of youth vision and government policy is one of the fundamental questions we at MoHow have spent our careers asking, and we have found that there is no killer policy, or one size fits all solution. The nature of the youth is that they are dynamic, vibrant, and ever-changing, which is at odds with the considered, more robust, and foundational nature of Governments. However, what we find usually works best is when Governments Listen to the youth. When youth vision and passion is heard and acted on an opportunity for social growth usually arises.
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