Councillors seek better voice for city's youth

Jinty MacTavish
Jinty MacTavish
Dunedin's youngest city councillors are to seek support from their colleagues to ensure young people's voices are heard at the Dunedin City Council.

The youth participation advisory group would advise and support the council's Youth Action Committee, which was established in 2007.

The latter aimed to be a voice in local government for young Dunedin people and has sought to involve young people in several youth-focused initiatives.

A recent review of its activities had highlighted a need both to work more closely with the council and to more effectively engage with young people, council community adviser Michael Laufiso told councillors in a report to the Community and Environment committee, which will consider the proposal today.

The advisory group, which would include representatives from the education sector as well as from youth employment and health sectors, would be tasked with developing a structure that would ensure a young voice could be heard within council and council processes, and advise the youth action committee on how it could better interact with the council.

The advisory group would report to the Community and Environment Committee.

Its 12-person membership would include Dunedin Mayor Dave Cull, Cr Jinty MacTavish, chairwoman of the Community and Environment Committee, and fellow young councillor Aaron Hawkins.

It would also include two representations from the Youth Action Committee and one each from the Otago University Students' Association, the Otago Polytechnic Students' Association, Dunedin Secondary Schools' Partnership, the Kokiri Training Centre, Otago Youth Wellness Centre and Enviroschools and council youth participation adviser Lani Evans.

Cr MacTavish said she and Cr Hawkins had been in talks about the proposal for a while and she was confident it was a good way to go, as she believed it was unfair to expect the young members of the Youth Action Committee to know and understand how council processes worked.

The advisory group could prove to be a formal vehicle to oversee the memorandum of understanding with the tertiary sector student associations.

Cr Hawkins said he believed the decisions the council and community made now had a greater impact on the city's young people than any other demographic.

''They have the most to lose and the most to gain and I think it's critical that we do anything we can to make it easier for them to get involved and this proposal is one such approach for doing that.''

-debbie.porteous@odt.co.nz

Clarification

Pitchblack's point is well made and has been at the forefront of the discussions we've been having around this Advisory Group.

The intention of the Advisory Group (which does include youth reps, but also as you have identified a range of other youth-related stakeholders) is to support young people to develop a structure which enables an effective youth voice within Council and in Council processes.

Once this new structure is established (whether it's a youth council, or a revamp of the exisiting youth action committee, or any other structure that's for youth, by youth), the Advisory Group's role will simply be to provide support and advice to the youth involved to help them effectively feed into Council decision-making.

So you're absolutely right pitchblack - and enhanced direct engagement between youth and Council is the end-goal...this Advisory Group just a stepping stone to get there.

A voice for youth

Consulting with people working with or representing youth is not quite the same consulting with the youths themselves. It would be good if there was some sort of outreach to the young people in the city.

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