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Young people
What are the key characteristics of this group that are relevant to consultation?

Young people have a right to be involved in decisions that affect their lives, as enshrined in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, to which Australia is a signatory.

It is important to remember that young people are not a homogenous group. They reflect the same mix of views, values and backgrounds that are prevalent throughout the entire community.

Notwithstanding this fundamental principle, some interesting facts about youth participation include:

  • More than a quarter of 18 to 24 year-olds volunteer in a range of activities, such as fundraising, coaching and counseling and environmental work. (Australian Bureau of Statistics 2000)
  • People aged 18 to 24 are most likely to nominate environmental problems as the most important social issue. (Sustainable Life - National Youth Roundtable Project 2000)
  • Thirty per cent of all Aboriginal people are between the ages of 12 and 25 years.(National Youth Affairs Research Scheme and Australian Bureau of Statistics 1993 Western Australia's Young People)
What are the implications of these characteristics for consultation?

Young people should be targeted for any consultation that impacts on the whole community.

For young people, participation means connection. Involving young people in policy discussions at all levels of government helps to develop individual capacities and strengthens a sense of community and social responsibility.

What methods or approaches have you found to be successful in accessing this group?

Young people can be accessed through schools, community organisations, committees, campaigns and projects. Other sources can include local sporting organisations or regional youth councils.

Ongoing engagement of young people is essential in this context. The validation of young people's role the community and right to participate creates an environment in which involvement in more structured consultation activity is more likely to occur. Support of young people's interests is important in improving ongoing relationships. These interests may be diverse but might include local government support for recreational facilities, music concerts or local art projects.

There is evidence to suggest that young people use the internet widely, so e-consultation may be a good method of engagement. Issues of access to technology and appropriate skill levels apply here, particularly for those who are less literate or from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds.

Have you needed to vary the 'standard' methods to make them suitable for this group?

There is a perception that young people are not interested in committees and that it's hard to get young people to attend meetings. However, there is evidence to suggest they are generally very interested in decision-making that directly affects them.

Similarly, taking into account venue and timing issues in relation to the lifestyles of young people is important (eg: holding and timing consultations at venues where young people are likely to be) of. This is particularly important given young people's study and work commitments.

Outline any particular issues which need to be addressed when consulting this group?

Youth participation works when:

  • Young people are involved in all stages of policy discussion
  • Trust and respect underpins the process
  • Issues are raised and taken into account
  • Decision-making processes are democratic
  • Consultation process fits with young people's lifestyles
  • There is a bottom-up approach to consultation
  • Resources are available to support young people to be informed and trained so they can take some control
  • Young people are involved in all decisions, both small and large (ie: budgetary and policy decisions)
Are there any further matters which are relevant to consulting with this group?

Barriers to youth participation:

  • People's perception that meaningful youth participation is not achievable
  • Language and meeting process
  • Lack of funding
  • Perception by adults of young people (eg: media's negative images of young people)
  • Lack of opportunity
  • Lack of publicity in relevant and accessible formats.
  • Social issues (eg: wealth, geography, nationality)
  • Lack of motivation, apathy
  • Image (eg: some young people think it's not 'cool' to be involved)
Further information

The Youth Affairs Council of Victoria is the peak body representing young people in Victoria.

For case studies, click here.

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