And we’re off!! The YMCA NSW Youth Parliament has officially begun for 2014. We rang in the New Year a little later than normal, with an afternoon function in the Theatrette of Parliament House. Our participants were lucky enough to be addressed by Adam Marshall MP, the Member for Northern Tablelands, who is the first YP alumna to graduate and be elected to the NSW Parliament. Mr Marshall extolled the virtues of community service, urging all Youth MP’s to continue that service throughout their lives, in a political capacity or otherwise. YMCA NSW CEO Philip Hare, YP Coordinator Beth Laurenson, and Taskforce member Audrey Chan (below) also addressed the audience, attesting to the lifechanging impact of the program on participants and taskies alike. Youth MP’s present were then treated to tours of Parliament House by the MP’s and MLC’s in attendance. It was great to see politicians chasing after their youth counterparts for a chat, as opposed to the other way around.
Below is a transcript of Audrey’s address at the launch. Thank you to everyone who attended for ushering us into the new year. Bring on 2014!
“First of all, on behalf of the 2014 Taskforce (or a Taskie as you may have heard), I would like to welcome all of you – Youth MPs, parents, teachers and MPs – to the YMCA Youth Parliament family. One of the most rewarding things about volunteering on the Taskforce is seeing the Youth MPs develop and really come out of their shell, and I am sure over the coming months, you will be able to see the change in your child or student.
Now you may be asking, what does a Taskie do? Well there is no simple definition. We are a team of 25 volunteers, and we have all at some stage participated in the program and decided that it was really too great to leave. We are mentors and guide the Youth MPs through their Youth Parliament journey. We are also somewhat teachers, journalists, and mothers on camp. Our taskforce is divided into four portfolios, each responsible for a different element of the program. So if you are feeling sick, a taskie will be there. If you need help with writing your speech, a taskie will be there. Hell, if you have lost your left shoe, a taskie will also be there helping you out. I can’t speak for the rest of the Taskforce, but I can’t imagine that their responses would be too different to what I am about to say, but being on the Taskforce is possibly the best thing I have ever done. Let me say first, that being a Taskie is by no means easy, or relaxed. Nor is the time commitment light. Spending 24 hours for 6 days at Residential Camp with fellow Taskies and over 140 Youth MPs will stretch every mental, emotional and physical limit that you thought you had. You learn how to function with less than 3-4 hours sleep and wake up in sub-zero temperatures before the sun is up. It is challenging, but it is well worth it. I became a Taskie because I wanted to give back to the program that had given me so much. Youth Parliament has taught me so much and gave me the strength to pursue my dream career that I had given up on but am now pursuing. Youth Parliament showed me who I could be.
I am reluctant to refer to Youth Parliament as a program because Youth Parliament is more than a program. It is the people that make Youth Parliament what it is today; the diversity of opinions, cultures and background is what gives this program colour! Each year, I find it a very profound moment to be able to show some rural and regional participants the Sydney Harbour Bridge and Opera House for the first time. And it is at these times that you are reminded just how far Youth Parliament reaches. The experience that this program offers, the new ideas that are brought to policy debate from Youth Parliamentarians is truly remarkable. As a Taskforce member, I am proud to say that I am volunteering for YMCA NSW Youth Parliament. Not just as a member of the team, but as part of the YP family”.