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.
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