OPINION: Youth voices matter – stand and be heard

FACES OF YAP: James Campbell, the senior community development and engagement officer at Port Stephens Council, with Adrian Solomons from Port Stephens Youth Advisory Panel. Picture: Ellie-Marie Watts

FACES OF YAP: James Campbell, the senior community development and engagement officer at Port Stephens Council, with Adrian Solomons from Port Stephens Youth Advisory Panel. Picture: Ellie-Marie Watts

The voice of young people must be heard.

They are the future leaders of this community and their ideas truly do matter. I can vouch for this from my experiences as an inaugural member of the Port Stephens Youth Advisory Panel (PSYAP) since October 2013.

In my time as a member of PSYAP, I have seen young people at the forefront taking a lead on the challenges that young people face.

Be it in the forms of advocating on behalf of the young people, to taking the lead in forums and meetings with people of influence including local councillors, state ministers and commissioners.

The following points highlight some of the opportunities I have had as a member of the PSYAP:

It has given me the opportunity to work alongside some incredible people within our community and further afield. It has given me the chance to attend youth conferences with other like-minded young people, that have helped to create key strategies including the first ever NSW strategic plan for young people and children, to our local youth strategy;

Being a part of opportunities in which young people have been able to use creative methods to tell us who inspires us via the Port Stephens 24 challenge was incredible;

Working closely and discussing matters of people with influence has given me the confidence to advocate on the issues that matter;

The biggest highlight for me has been working alongside the PSYAP at the first and second ever Port Stephens Youth Mental Health and Wellbeing Forums. Hearing the passion of our youth as they were articulating their views on the world we live in and how they would like to see it, was empowering;

Being nominated and finishing runner up in the Australia Day Awards for Port Stephens Young Citizen of the Year was a humbling experience and reminded me of what the youth of this community can achieve.

As the world is changing and evolving, we must change and evolve with it.

Whether that is being mindful of the power and influence of social media, to young people wanting more opportunities to express themselves in creative ways, we must listen.

This means continuing to build on the work of groups like PSYAP.

The PSYAP needs more young people to take a stand, to fight for what’s right and for the voice of the future to be known.

International Youth Day is on August 12.

Also read: Port’s youth panel seeking new voices

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