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”.

“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

My YP Journey, by Elyse Hudson

I am not someone who you would typically associate with politics. I am a university student, studying to become a mechanical engineer. I am a passionate fan of mathematics and science, yet the YMCA NSW Youth Parliament has been one of the most fantastic and worthwhile experiences of my life.

My first year in Youth Parliament was 2012, as a first year university student – not your typical participant by any stretch. I was the Youth Member for Charlestown on the Committee Investigating Parliamentary and Legal Reform. As a team we produced a bill to legalise voluntary euthanasia. Throughout this year, I developed close connections with my local politicians and media figures as I honed my advocacy skills and built networks that have continued into the future. Even though I sat on the backbenches, my passionate debating in the chamber resulted in me being awarded Best Speaker of the Opposition that year.

Naturally, there was a burning desire in me to return and give back to the program. Because I was still within the age bracket, I was fortunate enough to be able to return and be a part of the inaugural Youth Legislative Council in 2013. I was elected both Deputy Leader of the Opposition in the Legislative Council and Chairperson of the Committee Investigating Family and Community Services. This committee produced a fantastic bill and report on improving services for Male Victims of Domestic Violence, an issue I have continued to passionately advocate for. I also had the opportunity to have both my petition to equalise travel concessions for part-time, full-time and international tertiary students and my individual report on improving teacher quality debated and passed by the Legislative Council. Having my report passed unanimously has to be one of my proudest moments of my entire participation in the program.

The networks I have built because of Youth Parliament have allowed me to work with my Local Member as part of my local Youth Council to secure funding to run community events. It has offered me opportunities that I would otherwise have not had, such as appearing on national radio alongside Australian Wheelchair Racer Kurt Fearnley, and has opened doors I could not have imagined would be there for me, even in my wildest dreams.

A lot of people have asked me why I participate in these programs, when I do not aspire to become a politician. I believe that it is important to understand how Parliament works if you want to be an effective change maker. Youth Parliament has taught me a lot about parliamentary process and how to build networks to promote your ideas. This knowledge is essential to everyone, regardless of their future career, as it empowers you to move forward and share your ideas with the world.

In 2014, I will be returning as a Leadership Officer on the Youth Parliament Taskforce to the program that has empowered me with the skills to build my own career and develop my ideas. I want to use my experiences to inspire to the next generation of Youth Parliamentarians to make a difference. Everyone should try Youth Parliament, regardless of their background, interests, dreams and aspirations, because Youth Parliament has something to give to everyone and everyone has something to give to Youth Parliament.

Elyse Hudson
2012 Youth Member for Charlestown
2012 Best Speaker of the Opposition
2013 Deputy Leader of the Opposition in the Legislative Council
2013 Chairperson of the Committee Investigating Family and Community Services
2014 Taskforce Member

Check out this interview with Elyse from 2012:

To apply for the 2014 program, go to: http://www.ymcansw.org.au/activity/nswyp

Jack McNally, 2013 Youth Parliamentarian, speaks of his experiences

The YMCA NSW Youth Parliament isn’t your standard, run-of-the-mill program. I started the program as one of the youngest participants, who really hadn’t done a lot of advocacy work or embarked on programs like this. I was really nervous and scared, thinking if I didn’t have an in-depth knowledge of every single political event currently occurring, I’d be shunned. I was nervous because I didn’t really know anyone doing the program wouldn’t make any friends. But, from the second I arrived, I didn’t feel that same foreboding feeling, I didn’t feel as though I wouldn’t belong – because the participants and taskforce didn’t just become my friends, but a second family. I’ve met some of the kindest and greatest people I’ve known and made friendships that will last a lifetime. Getting up in the chamber and speaking was like nothing I’ve ever done before. I was empowered to advocate for my electorate and for young people. Passionately proving your point while your benches screamed “hear, hear” in support was something that amazed me. Hearing the “shames” from the opposition just added to the fuel of the argument, and though you may have been opposition and government in the chamber, after you got back from sitting in Parliament, you were all one family. Youth Parliament really has changed my life, and I’m grateful every day for the most amazing experience of my life.

Jack McNally
2013 Youth Member for Menai
2013 Youth Minister for Housing

Jack

The Hand Over

What a year. What a Week. What a time in my life.

Being the YMCA NSW Youth Governor for the last year has been amazing but I step down, knowing that my successor is the right person for the role and will undoubtedly do an amazing job! This blog is dedicated to the hand over!

Whether it is the expansion of the program to the Legislative Chamber, speaking in front of the Premier of NSW, witnessing some of the most amazing debates I have ever witnessed or being an advisor for the first time… YP2013 has been the greatest learning experience of my life and I hope I have done the position justice.

As Youth Governor, I recognised the potential which social media held to reach out to our target audience; the engaged youth. I hoped to bring the excitement to YP2013 through Facebook and Twitter. I was also committed to attending as many community speaking events as possible, never passing up an opportunity to promote the program. It was amazing going to Melbourne to the Council of Australian Youth Parliaments to discuss how we, as a movement, can move forward together, stronger.

I make special reference to YMCA NSW who under their pillar of developing young people, has consistently ran the YMCA NSW Youth Parliament for the past 12 years. Their continued dedication to the Youth & Government suite of programs leaves us with the amazing Youth Parliament we know and love today.

To Brydan, mate, have fun with it and enjoy the role. The role is what you make of it, but continue on with the hard work of past Youth Governors before you bring your own personal ‘swagger’ to it.

Having said that, there are some serious… very serious goals you must meet. #demnumbers

1. After inheriting the Youth Governor (@NSWYouthGov) Twitter that was running a 100% following to followers account deficit, I have managed to grow the pie but also bring the ratio to a respectable 10% deficit. I look forward to Brydan running for the first time in Youth Governor History a Twitter Surplus! 😛

2. Brydan, I also noticed you only have 738 friends on Facebook… this must change. I look forward to seeing this rise to at least into the 4 figure mark.

3. Smile. As serious as the job is, and as important as it is to be on top of your game, it is important as Youth Governor to stop and smile! I expect a minimum of 5 smiles per day for the duration of your term.

In all seriousness Brydan, it is with great pleasure I hand over the duties of the YMCA NSW Youth Governor to you, and know that you have a mate in me if you ever need any guidance.

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Geeth Geeganage
Former YMCA NSW Youth Governor
Current and Always Lover of YMCA NSW Youth Parliament.