Amplify Blog - Reframing the Sector: Reflections of a Youth Advocate
The below is a guest blog by Ben, past QFCC Youth Advocate
Opportunities for young people across Queensland are increasing every day. Young people are encouraged to participate in civic society, politics and advocate for pressing social issues. Organisations like the Queensland Family and Child Commission (QFCC) are focused on promoting the rights of young people across Queensland, but more importantly, encouraging young people to promote these rights themselves.
For the past three and a half years, I’ve been fortunate to work as a Youth Advocate for the QFCC, becoming involved in a range of topics like youth mental health, sustainability, cyber safety and youth engagement. I think it’s important to reflect on my experiences as a QFCC Youth Advocate, whilst also considering the need to re-shape how youth engagement is approached, and the challenges faced by young people seeking to engage.
The Importance of Reframing Youth Engagement
I’m certain that we’ve all heard the phrase ‘young people are the future generation’, yet I think that very few consider the meaning behind the words. As the future generation, youth engagement, participation and advocacy will not only contribute to, but shape the future of society – and let’s be honest, that’s a massive task!
However, it’s not as simple as just engaging with young people. It’s about developing a sector that supports young people to feel comfortable to engage.
After having the opportunity to contribute to youth advisory councils for government and non-government organisations, I believe that successful engagement is dependent on the foundations.
By foundations, I refer to how, when and why the organisation engages with young people. For example, as a Youth Advocate for the QFCC, I had the opportunity to contribute to the Youth Participation Framework - a mechanism that enshrined a youth perspective and that would shape the Commission’s strategic plan. At a foundational level, the QFCC has not only encouraged a youth perspective, but made it a fundamental priority. In turn, Youth Advocates like myself have a space to discuss the big issues, the future and how we can contribute to societal challenges.
To successfully engage with young people, it’s not as simple as holding an event or promoting a survey. As a sector, we have to re-shape the definition of ‘successful engagement’, shifting the focus to creating spaces where young people are comfortable standing up and speaking out.
Reflections of a Youth Advocate
In all honesty, my term on the QFCC Youth Advisory Council has flown by. From facilitating a ‘Speak Out’ event in Rockhampton, to co-designing a youth forum, I’ve had some incredible opportunities. Learning and working alongside other Youth Advocates, I think I speak for all of us when I say that the QFCC has developed a space where young people feel valued for their opinions.
That is what youth engagement should be about, and we have to work to reframe the concept of successful engagement to valuing the voices of young people.
With the release of the Youth Participation Framework, I feel confident that the Youth Advisory Council will continue to shake up the sector, challenging assumptions and sharing ideas to address the emerging issues.
As a final note, if I had one piece of advice for other young people, it would be to consider advocacy opportunities like the QFCC Youth Advisory Council. Yes, I may be biased, but I can say with certainty that it is an experience I won’t forget.