Amanda Gailiss’ speech at Youth Parliament
In 400BC Socrates wrote: “The children now have luxury. They have bad manners, contempt for authority. They show disrespect for the elders and love chatter in place of exercise. Children are now tyrants, not the servants of the household. They contradict their parents, chatter before company, gobble up dainties at the table, cross their legs and tyrannise their teachers.”
Although thousands of years old, this view of young people is similar to how we are seen now. When people talk about us, we are often told we are lazy, narcissistic or disengaged. But are those same people aware that 75% of young people participate in sports? That 50% volunteer and that 50% are engaged in arts, cultural or musical activities?
No one is as quick to speak up on how difficult life can be for young people or the wonderful changes we have managed to achieve through Youth Parliament. Mental health, youth unemployment and affordable housing are just some of the issues that are affecting our everyday lives.
One in four young people have a mental health condition, and 70 per cent of university students rate their mental health as poor. Despite these figures, there is still so much stigma attached to mental health. Services for preventive mental health care are expensive and many still remain inaccessible.
Youth unemployment is at 12.7%, far exceeding general unemployment which is at 5.5%. Under employment sits at 8%. We are never fired, but we receive fewer shifts. There are unpaid internships in professional services and arts, which only widens the gap for disadvantaged people.
With the average house price sitting at almost 10 times the average full-time wage, housing too remains unaffordable for today’s young population. And with a 2° rise in temperature looking inevitable, what about the future of our environment?
But we don’t let this deter us.
In 2017, two thirds of young people said they were confident about the future. So why not think about 2030?
Think about what mental health could look like. There’s already resilience training in primary schools. Mental health early intervention exists in high schools. There is greater cultural awareness and less stigma.
And think about the world of work. It is illegal to have unpaid internships. Work is now more meaningful, with companies moving towards having a greater social impact.
And housing. The government has owned addresses for homeless people, and fast trains between all the major cities to help lift the pressure on housing prices.
The outlook on our environment has changed dramatically as well. We only use biodegradable bags and containers. The environmental footprint on food labelling is mandatory and we have now become a conscious consumer. The Australian Youth Climate Coalition has campaigned to the Government for climate justice. Across our country and across the world, young people have mobilised.
Now think back 30 years ago. We would never have predicted the positive change that young people have made. The mandatory wearing of bicycle helmets, over-the-counter availability for the morning after pill, and all-night public transport – these are just a handful of the great things and they have all come from the YMCA Youth Parliament Programme.
The future state with young people involved is bright.
What do you want 2030 to look like? You have the ability to make that change.
As Margaret Mead once said:
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”
Youth Parliament Youth Governor 2017
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