Ode to WordPress

As YMCA Youth & Government heads into an exciting new era, with new programs and new ideas, our online media presence is also changing and growing.

It is a thrilling time for all areas of Y&G, but it does mean that the time has come to bid farewell to our beloved blog…

The YMCA has recently unveiled an updated and new website. As part of this, Y&G now has our very News section!

The Youth & Government blog has moved:

So fear not, all your regular blog posts will continue to appear throughout this year and well into the future. They will now take the form of News Items on our official Youth & Government website.

This blog will remain here as a repository of all our 2011 to 2013 articles. But from now on, all new posts will move to the new location on the Y website.

That means this is our last post on this WordPress. Given that this is a momentous occasion, we thought it warranted a special send off. Therefore, as we say farewell, we present to you the statistics of three years of blogging, in celebrations of the good times we had.

Number of hits: More than 6000
Busiest month: September 2013 with 1046 hits
Most viewed post: Getting ready for Ressi; the Do’s and Don’ts, posted June 23rd, 2013
Most viewed page: YMCA NSW Junior Parliament
Most shared post: Michael’s YP Story
Numbers of countries that our blog has been viewed in: 47
Most commonly searched term through a search engine to find our blog: Matthew Oreshkin

As you can see, it’s been a prolific and successful few years.

It’s now time for one final thank you to everyone who has contributed to this blog over the years and made it the success it has been.

So, farewell to ymcayouthandgovernment.wordpress.com Thank you for the memories!

And hello to http://www.ymcansw.org.au/centres/youth-government/news! Make sure you head over to our new website and check it out! We look forward to long future of posts!


Young People Take Chance to Talk About Gambling

On the 21st and 24th of February, young people gathered in Erina, on the NSW Central Coast, and Wollongong to discuss gambling policy with their peers. The discussions were the first two YMCA Think Tanks for the year, and the first Think Tanks ever to be held outside Sydney. The policy discussion was prompted by a Legislative Council inquiry into gambling policy in NSW. At both Think Tanks, the design, accessibility and promotion of gambling were investigated, along with the policy of voluntary pre-commitment and gambling education.

The design and accessibility of gambling, in its many forms, are relevant to young people given the easy accessibility of online sports betting, and the prominence of poker machines in pubs and clubs across the state. Think Tank participants brainstormed some ingenious ideas in their exploration of design and accessibility, suggesting that poker machine addiction could be addressed with popup ads programmed into the game. These would interrupt gameplay and provide information for gambling counselling services. Other suggestions included mandating clocks in gaming areas, and displaying bets in dollar figures as opposed to “credits”, which distances the player from how much money they’re losing. On accessibility, the centrality of gaming areas to club layouts was questioned, and the age verification systems for online betting services were deemed inadequate.

The main outcomes of both Think Tanks were the proposals for gambling education programs, brainstormed by the participants. Most ideas revolved around educating young people about the realities of gambling, and the potential for big losses. This would include the use of guest speakers, possibly reformed problem gamblers, to talk about their experiences. Other strategies focused on teaching students how different games work, and using maths to show the slim probability of winning.

After all the deliberations, a proposal is being put together which summarises the recommendations of the Think Tanks, which will be submitted to the Legislative Council inquiry. Stay tuned!

YP Launches into a New Year!

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!

Audrey launch

“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”.

Welcome to the YMCA NSW Youth Parliament for 2014!

We are pleased to announce that the YMCA NSW Youth Parliament is well underway for its 13th year!

We have a very dedicated and hardworking taskforce who are well and truly getting into the planning of the program, and over 160 eager participants ready to represent over 88% of electorates statewide. We received a record number of applicants this year, so we are positive that this is going to be the best year of YP yet!

For the second year in a row, we will not only have passionate young YMPs speak about issues in the Legislative Assembly, but also have YMLCs debate a range of important issued in the Legislative Council. We have more committees than ever before, meaning more young people will have the opportunity to have their say on a wider range of issues – from education to law reform, aboriginal affairs to health, family and community affairs to women’s rights, and many more! To see a full list, check out the “YMCA NSW Youth Parliament” tab on this blog.

To kick-start this year’s YMCA NSW Youth Parliament, we will be holding three (yes, that’s right, not ONE, but THREE) YP launches in just a few weeks’ time! For the first time ever, we will be holding two regional launches, in conjunction with the metro launch at NSW Parliament House.

The two regional launches, which will be held at Erina and Wollongong, will also be held in conjunction with two YMCA Think Tanks, so that passionate young people from around the state can voice their opinions on important issues affecting them. Remember, you don’t have to be a part of Youth Parliament to participate. All young people are invited!

So, come along to one of the following YP launches:

  • 21st February: Erina Centre
  • 24th February: Wollongong Library
  • 27th February: NSW Parliament House

For more information about the Think Tanks, check out the “YMCA Think Tank” tab on this blog.

In the meantime, bookmark this page, like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter (@NSWYthParl) to keep up to date with what the YP family is up to!



“Youth Parliament doesn’t just change the community, it changes you” by Katerina Jovanovska

YP 2011 030I always find it difficult to talk about the YMCA NSW Youth Parliament. No matter how hard I try, I just can’t convey what the program has done for me, and for other people. Nothing can express just how much it transformed me from an enthusiastic young girl to a strong, passionate and confident young woman.

When talking about the YMCA NSW Youth Parliament, we’re not talking about a leadership and advocacy program run by the YMCA. We’re talking about the program that changed my life.

At 17, I enthusiastically approached my local MP, Cherie Burton, asking her to nominate me for what I thought was a program too good to be true. After our first meeting, where she agreed to nominate me to partake in the program, I was excited about the prospect of being the Youth Member for Kogarah. I knew the issues in my local community, and wanted to advocate for change at the highest level possible, and YP was the arena where I was going to make it happen. Always motivated to change what I perceived wrong with the world, I saw the YMCA NSW Youth Parliament as the platform where I was going to express myself, my ideas and my solutions.

You can only imagine the deep sense of confusion I felt when, at residential camp, at the annual sitting week, I was terrified to speak in parliament. I was a School Captain, a debating captain, a public speaker, a political enthusiast – yet, despite my passion and experience, I was nervous to utter a single word in parliament. I wanted to advocate for the issues of my local community, but something about the bear pit didn’t seem inviting; I feel like an observer, rather than a participant.

It was the then Deputy Youth Opposition Leader, Blake Osmond, who sat next to me in a cabinet meeting and told me that I had to speak in parliament the following day – that I was capable, and deserved to tell the chamber and the people of NSW what I thought about the issue. He probably doesn’t remember it, but Blake’s simple, kind and encouraging words gave me the courage I needed to stand up during the Education bill the following day and debate my passionate little heart out. At that moment, 2:15pm on Tuesday 5 July, it was as if something changed in me. There were 90 other young people who were listening to my ideas and my contribution, and I had to fight to make them understand my point of view. It was an incredible, unparalleled feeling of standing in the middle of the bear pit, standing up for myself and for my community. A few days later, I won the Best Speaker of the Opposition Award.

It is that sense of discovery, passion and teamwork that permeates Youth Parliament. Your fellow Youth Members want you to succeed, they want you to do well and they want you to be the best that you can be.

It is that ethos that made me return as a taskforce member in 2012 and 2013.

I’ve always said that the reason I continue to volunteer with YP is because there is a moment – a moment that happened with me and a moment that happens with most YMPs – that changes everything. It is that moment when you’re standing at the lectern, having just introduced yourself, and that first “hear hear” bellows from behind you. That moment when you realise that the future is in your hands: the moment when you realise that it is you standing in the Legislative Assembly fighting for what you believe in. The look of passion, tempered by disbelief, is one of the most inspiring things I have ever seen. It happens almost every time a YMP stands up for the first time to speak in the chamber. The realisation that they are the future; the force that can bring about change. It is why I continue to volunteer with Youth Parliament.

Youth Parliament doesn’t just change the community, it changes you.

To apply for 2014, go to: http://www.ymcansw.org.au/activity/nswyp Applications close on the 29th of November!

Katerina Jovanovksa
2011 Youth Member for Kograh
2011 Best Speaker of the Opposition
2012 – 2014 Taskforce Member

Michael’s YP Story

There is something truly special about the YP experience. The way in which you can make friends with people from such different walks of life – from rural and urban upbringings, in circumstances of both high and low socio-economic privilege, to the diverse array of religious and cultural perspectives represented in the YMCA NSW Youth Parliament – still astounds me. By the end of our ferocious debates, and there were many of those, the friendships formed weren’t over which side of the political or sporting spectrum anyone supported, they were over the combined passion for societal change shared by every member of the group.

IMG_1955However the strongest endorsement of the YMCA NSW Youth Parliament isn’t anything I could write. It is in the actions of my fellow Youth MPs as we sat in the chamber, as they shared personal struggles, all in the hope that we could bring about changed that stopped other young people having to face these mammoth challenges unsupported. Not everything that people brought to the table I agreed with. But with all of these diverse opinions, it was clearly visible that every contribution to those important debates was strengthening the level of discussion, and that it is important for all of these voices to be heard. YP is a brilliant channel to do just that and I encourage everyone to apply for 2013- you will not regret it.

Michael Wright
2013 Youth Member for Canterbury

Don’t delay, apply for the 2014 YMCA NSW Youth Parliament today! http://www.ymcansw.org.au/activity/nswyp

Daniel Turner’s YP Story

Towards the end of 2012, my Dad gave me an article from his aunty which was on Blake Osmond (2012 Youth Governor) detailing his experience in the 2012 program. I immediately started ringing around the various MLCs and I was lucky enough to gain the nomination of the Hon. Mick Veitch. I wouldn’t have had the great experience that I had in the program had it not been for Mick’s willingness to nominate me and assist me over the period I was in the program.

In April this year I left for Camp Yarramundi to attend the training camp early in the morning and along the way we stoped for lunch at the local KFC. Unknown to me, in the same KFC eating lunch is Brydan Toner, to be the Deputy Leader of Government in the Legislative Council and 2014 Youth Governor.

Walking up the driveway at Yarramundi where all the participants were, my stomach was turning over, because I didn’t know what to expect. It was the first time I would have been away from my parents and not on a school excursion. But, as soon as I got talking to my fellow participants, my nerves were immediately dispelled. I particularly connected immediately with Brydan Toner, Annie Zhou, Jarah Crook and Michael Wright.

We met with our committees for the first time at Training Camp. I was on the Roads and Ports committee with Tegan Keizer and Sophie Lara-Watson. We were incredibly efficient with the assistance of our advisor Brad Stait.

I went home very confident and really excited for Residential Camp. I talked all the way home, and to put it in context, between Yarramundi and Wyong on the Central Coast is a two hour drive!

Before Residential Camp, I had a meeting with Mick to get his opinion on the report that we created. He thought that it was absolutely excellent and had no criticisms!

When it was time for my report to be debated in Parliament House in July, I got up and gave my 5-minute sponsor speech. Unknown to everyone, I had only written half the speech. I made the 2nd half of the speech off the top of my head. I would never have been able to do that before YP.

After my report passed with over 30 in support, I was privileged to debate an important issue in my local community; the issue of a new high school at Warnervale. I was able to place on record my views of this community issue in front of government MLC Catherine Cusack.

The biggest part of Youth Parliament was the self-discovery journey that I went on. Hearing the personal stories of benefits of teachers aids during the Teachers Aids Act debate, the stories of terrible treatment in the public housing system, hearing the stories of bullying when individuals came out as homosexuals was just heart breaking and brought me to tears. Until Youth Parliament, I didn’t realise that I had so much empathy for others in me.

But the utmost best thing about Youth Parliament, is the self-empowerment that it gives you. It really feels like you are getting your views heard when you stand at the lectern, state your opinion on a bill and look up at the President’s chair and see a real MP sitting there listening.

There is so much that I will take away from Youth Parliament. I have gained so many skills, including public speaking skills, advocacy skills and social skills. I have made so many life-long friends that I know will still be in contact with me when I am old and on a walking stick. YP has benefited me so much and I would recommend it to anyone.

Daniel Turner
2013 Youth Member of the Legislative Council
2013 Youth Minister for Roads and Ports
2013 Youth Parliamentarian of the Year

To apply for 2014, head to: http://www.ymcansw.org.au/centre/nswyp/activity/nswyp

Make sure to check out our interview with Daniel from 2013, and subscribe to our channel for more great videos! https://www.youtube.com/user/nswYPTV