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10 May 2022

1 May 2022: UNICEF Australia has called for a new National Youth Advisory Council as part of its Vote4Kids platform ahead of this month’s Federal election.

The Council is designed to give children and young people a direct link to work with the Federal Government on issues that will directly impact them.

UNICEF Australia Advocacy and Policy Manager John Livingstone said that for too long young people’s input into policy has been neglected yet they are passionate, engaged and want to have a say in their future.

“We don’t make decisions on infrastructure projects without consulting engineering experts. We don’t make investment decisions without consulting economic experts. So why we do we make policy decisions about young people without consulting or listening to them?” says Mr Livingstone.

“Young people want to constructively and positively participate in their communities. We see that every year when we call for new participants to our Young Ambassadors program and are inundated with applications from vibrant Australians from all walks of life and backgrounds who want to make a difference.”

UNICEF Australia’s Young Ambassadors recently met in Sydney to consult on the proposed Council’s design, operation, and youth engagement framework, which will provide a platform for young people to actively consult on issues and spearhead initiatives in areas such as cost of living pressures, mental health care, climate change, and equal access to education.

Young Australians would be involved in designing the Council. One proposed model is a Council made up of 15- to 24-year-olds from diverse backgrounds, recruited from across Australia, which has regular communications with Ministers and senior bureaucrats.

“Research shows engaging young people in decision making has huge benefits, from increasing their civic participation to improving their health and wellbeing. We know young people are more likely to take up a program if they helped design it and it actually serves their needs,” says Mr Livingstone.

Twenty-year-old Young Ambassador and international relations student Zara Maddigan says young people deserve to have their voices heard on issues that affect them now and into the future.

“We need more than ad hoc opportunities to share our views and this Council will provide a sustainable long-term method of engagement for generations to come,” says Ms Maddigan.

As leading advocates for children and young people, UNICEF Australia’s Vote4Kids platform also calls for:

  • Improved access to early childhood education and care;
  • Funding to fully implement the National Children’s Mental Health and Wellbeing Strategy;
  • Creation of targeted job pathways and flexible training opportunities for young people;
  • Putting children and young people at the centre of disaster planning and pandemic recovery;
  • Increasing Paid Parental Leave to 26 weeks with ‘use it or lose it’ rules; and
  • Commitment to ambitious emission reductions. 

“Young people bore so much during the COVID-19 pandemic with lengthy lockdowns, loss of face-to-face learning and a need for more mental health support. Much of their formative years have been disrupted in ways we could never have anticipated, the impacts of which will be long lasting,” says Mr Livingstone.

“But we also saw their incredible resilience and desire to be part of public discussions, especially around mental health and access to equal education. These are issues that young people will have to confront for generations to come and it’s imperative that they have a chance to contribute to the solutions.”