A delegation of three young people from UNICEF Australia’s NSW Youth Summit on Living with Drought are meeting with federal government Ministers and other decision-makers in Canberra this week to discuss their ideas for policy solutions and to push for long-term thinking, rather than ad hoc and reactive funding measures.
“These young people from regional and remote New South Wales have already issued their call for action on a national drought policy,” said UNICEF Australian Head of Policy and summit co-coordinator, Amy Lamoin. “They are urging the government to start the next decade with an actionable plan and greater coordination of support services that will help communities withstand long term drought.”
“What we are proposing and asking for goes beyond existing initiatives to protect small business and assets,” she said. “We urgently need a people-centred approach to drought response and disaster risk reduction.”
“People often ask us why is it’s important to listen to young people on national matters such as the drought,” said March-based, Monique Worsley. “Our response is simple and clear - young people like us must be part of the conversation because we have lived experience that can be drawn upon to play a key role in limiting the human impacts of drought and other natural disasters of the future.”
“The drought directly and specifically effects young people like us, our education and social connectedness – exacerbating existing challenges and inequalities across regional and remote Australia,” said Tullamore-based, William Thomas. “We are urging the government to start a new year with a new commitment and a new plan.”
“We do not want to start another year, another decade, without an adequate plan - we cannot endure another year of the same policies and the same ad-hoc responses,” said Bumbaldry-based, Olivia Twyford. “We are calling for accountable decision making and stronger coordination and leadership - we have ideas, solutions and strong personal motivations to be involved in the response. We are knowledge holders and community leaders and have solutions to local problems, as well as those on a wider scale.”
“In NSW, periods of drought have been prolonged in contrast to recovery periods, which are shrinking. This delegation of young people want assurance from governments that there is a plan for the recovery phase, which is a notoriously difficult period,” Ms Lamoin said. “The impacts of drought have a long shelf life and we know, based on past experience, that the mental health of drought-affected people can worsen and drop off during these recovery phases.”
In addition to calling for a national drought plan and improved coordination of services, the delegation are encouraging the government to take steps to future-proof their communities. They are also asking for a national conversation on water security and ways we can bridge the divide between regional or remote communities and the cities. Specifically, the delegation is seeking:
- A review of water rights and joint agreement with indigenous landholders on water management
- Access to decision makers and accountable decision making
- Improved community based mental health
- Measures to address family and financial stress, and
- A HECs-style deferred payment system for high school students.
“I am immensely proud to see these meetings taking place,” said UNICEF Australia’s CEO, Tony Stuart. “Apart from being about children and young people having the opportunity to express their views, influence decision-making and work toward meaningful change, it is more importantly about being recognised as the stakeholders they are and being provided the rightful place at the table.”