Priority 4: Young people are respected and involved in decisions in their communities

Young people are supported to have their voices, lived experience and solutions heard, and have genuine, meaningful opportunities to influence decisions.

Our promise, Your future ensures young people will be involved in decisions that affect them. From our response to climate change and recovery from the coronavirus pandemic, to ensuring we have a connected and accessible public transport network and mental health system, every issue our state faces is an issue of importance to young people.

This strategy shifts the burden that young people have of being educators, awareness-raisers and advocates–often for systems and structures they have inherited. Instead, young people will have structures in place that turn their ideas and experiences into action.

Our promise, Your future helps create a future where young people have more control and power in their lives. Young people will shape our policies, laws, services and infrastructure, making them more relevant to their needs. Through this, we will create intergenerational equity that benefits both current and future generations. We are setting a new standard for working with young people across policy reform, systems change, service design, roll out and evaluation.

This strategy also increases the positive way young people are shown in the media, tackling discrimination that many young people experience. On an average day, only 1 per cent of stories directly quote a young person; only 11 per cent include the views or experiences of young people. Young people will have more opportunities to be listened to and represented in media about them.

Our promise, Your future is working towards more equitable opportunities for young people. This strategy calls on decision-makers across government to recognise the collective efforts needed to actively address the structural power imbalances that directly affect some young people’s lives.

‘Prevention starts with young people and children who are breaking intergenerational cycles. We need to go beyond giving voice.’
– Roundtable participant

Our commitment to young Victorians under priority 4 is …

4.1 Increase representation of young people aged 25 or under on Victorian Government boards.

  • We will develop resources to make boards more inclusive and empower youth to take part.
  • We will improve how we promote board positions to young people so they are aware and more supported to access opportunities.
  • We will promote opportunities for young people that can lead to future board appointments–for example through experience on advisory committees and other relevant bodies

4.2 Develop an evidence-based menu of youth engagement and youth-led action models. All Victorian government departments will use this menu to ensure young people take an active role in decision making. The menu will also be available to local governments across Victoria.

4.3 Work with Aboriginal young people to create more direct communication opportunities across the Victorian Government. This will give Aboriginal young people the opportunity to discuss specific issues, priorities and areas of importance to them.

‘They might listen but what will they actually do about it?’
– Aboriginal youth forum participant

4.4 Support opportunities for young people to directly engage with Ministers on important issues.

4.5 Expand opportunities for young people to engage with civics and citizenship education within schools.

‘Allow young people more presence in political spaces and government decision making. We are the future of Australia; we are the future of the world and everything happening today that we have no say in impacts our lives far longer than those in power are affected for.’
– Survey respondent, 19–21 years old

4.6 Promote ways for youth council members and leaders across local government and advisory groups to connect with and support young people. This will allow young people to contribute to and lead decision making and to organise place-based action on important issues.

4.7 Establish the Koorie Youth Council as a principal youth sector partner with the Office for Youth, alongside the Youth Affairs Council Victoria and the Centre for Multicultural Youth. Provide annual funding for policymaking and advocacy, noting the future partnership opportunities of Victoria’s treaty process.

4.8 Promote youth engagement in Victorian TAFEs by increasing student engagement and participation in TAFE decision making and campus activities.

4.9 Increase the visibility of young people in the media and public discussions. Ensure this includes disabled young people, LGBTIQ+ young people, Aboriginal young people and young people from multicultural and multifaith communities.

4.10 Set up opportunities for young people to work on Victoria’s response to climate change. Do this through our roll out of Victoria’s Climate Change Act 2017, including setting future emissions targets for the state.

‘There should be a solution to commit government to better communications with young people on the complexities and big decisions [like] public drunkenness, community health solution work.’
– Aboriginal youth forum participant

‘Youth need to engage more in the outside world and really get involved in big decisions that will end up impacting our future! We are the future! Our voices and needs need to be met and heard.’
– Survey respondent, 12–15 years old

Case study: Building young people’s strengths nurtures them as leaders

Young person, 21 years old

Young people have fresh ideas and a burning passion to improve our world.

Young people are fuelled by the terrifying reality of their futures sinking under water, going up in flames, and harbouring constant fear. We are desperate to be heard, and for our voices to be put into action.

I was 16 when I first heard that climate change was a result of core systemic faults and a symptom of disconnection from our planet. It is a helpless reality, witnessing the loss of our natural world continue, when the impacts of our ignorance are already so obvious. I shared my observations alongside other high school students at the OECD, and at the UN COP24. We were met with ignorance from adults, and our voices were tokenised to improve the credibility of other’s projects. We had so much to share, and solutions to offer, but weren’t respected, even at the most important decision-making tables.

It wasn’t until I was 19 that I found myself sitting in a room of educators talking about what climate education offered me that I felt my story was used as a tool for change. The conversation flowed, as what I was saying was noted and discussed as a case study for education reform. I then talked to the students, and my passion for young people’s involvement in these conversations was reignited.

Surrounding myself with other young people comforts me with a sense of solidarity and determination, as we’re all on the same page: wanting to be seen, listened to and valued for our ideas and contributions. When discussing this experience with my peers, we shared a feeling of young people’s voices being valued and heard.