Monday 16 September 2019 – In over 45 meetings with politicians – 20 per cent of Parliament - in Canberra this week, UNICEF Australia’s eight Young Ambassadors, from seven states and territories, will be taking the results of their year-long research into the concerns and attitudes of Australia’s children and young people to our nation’s decision makers – across all sides of the political spectrum.
“This is a tremendously important moment for both our Young Ambassador Program and for children and young people across Australia,” said UNICEF Australia CEO, Tony Stuart.
“These meetings are about children and young people from across Australia having the opportunity – through our Young Ambassadors - to express their views, influence decision-making, to share their stories and achieve meaningful change,” he said. “It is about being recognised as the stakeholders they are, and being provided the rightful place at the table, alongside the rest of civil society.”
The eight Young Ambassadors – from Gympie in Queensland, Coffs Harbour and Sydney in NSW, Wodonga, Timboon and Melbourne in Victoria, Gawler in South Australia and Perth in Western Australia – will be presenting the findings of their A Climate for Change: 2019 Young Ambassador Report during their meetings.
It chronicles attitudes among children and young people in Australia to matters of wellbeing, safety, learning, equality, the environment, including climate change, and trust in media and politics. It is the result of their nationwide consultations with over 1500 children and young people, supported by a national YouGov Galaxy poll of 14 to 17 year olds.
“Children and young people around the country told the Young Ambassadors they want ‘change’ on many fronts, that they are dissatisfied and frustrated by ideology and the politicisation of issues that impact their lives – overwhelmingly, they said they want real, considered and concrete action,” said UNICEF Australia’s Head of Government Relations, Oliver White.
In this regard, over half (55 per cent) of young people aged 14 to 17 years reported a low level of trust in Australian politicians, rising to 66 per cent among those aged 18 and 19.
As one Year 10 girl from the ACT said in the Young Ambassador consultations, “Politicians talking and interacting with young people... when they do, it’s a very select group and it's very biased to those people [who share] their experiences [and] also their advantages... I think, maybe more collaboration between different kinds of groups would help.”
The Young Ambassador consultations showed that, from a young age, children are watching, observing, learning and making deeply considered assessments, increasing in sophistication as they grow older.
“Developing the abilities and opportunities for children and young people to participate in matters that concern them either directly or indirectly, and amplifying their voices in that regard, is both part of UNICEF Australia’s mandate and our way of working,” Mr Stuart said.
The Young Ambassadors, themselves, consider that the voices of children and young people are missing from public debate in Australia: “Children are citizens and critical stakeholders – we hope our report will change the way children are viewed and help influence policy, particularly when it is concerned with them.”
With 2019 marking 30 years of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the Young Ambassadors will be calling on politicians to reaffirm their commitment to children and to make this a year of action.