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Young people have their say


Brigid Veale
30 November 2007
Young people in the Northern Rivers will be able to voice their views on a range of issues and play a key role in shaping research activities through a group set up by Southern Cross University’s Centre for Children and Young People.

The Centre has established a youth consultative group, known as Young People Big Voice (YPBV), made up of nine new members aged 13 to 21 years. It was officially launched at Southern Cross University this week.

Jennifer Parke, the facilitator of the group, said the participants came from a broad range of backgrounds and experience.

“They will act as a bridge between young people and the Centre for Children and Young People,” Ms Parke said. “They will be able to shed light on lots of issues affecting young people and they will be able to influence the research undertaken by the Centre.”

Ms Parke said in addition to being a driver for research projects, the group would provide input into how research was undertaken and advise on what research methods could work best with young people.

One of the first activities for the group was to participate in a meeting of international researchers from the Childwatch International Research Network. The researchers, who met at Southern Cross University last month, are planning an international study focussed on rural children and young people.

Ms Parke said it was also hoped the group could provide input into other activities in the Northern Rivers region.

“One of the things we have already identified through this group is that young people routinely don’t have an active voice in decision-making that affects them,” she said.

“They make the obvious point, for example, that young people don’t have any input into curriculum development in schools.

“They have already expressed an interest in getting involved in some local issues.”

Brooke Avery, who has just finished Year 10 at St John’s College Woodlawn and was a member of the Youth Parliament, said the group would give young people a greater voice in decision-making.

She identified under-age drinking as one issue of particular concern in this region which she hoped could be addressed.

Rama Manzart, 17, has experienced a range of education styles, from home schooling to traditional high school and is keen to share his knowledge.

“So many decisions are made about young people but young people don’t have anything to do with them. Young people can contribute their experience and knowledge of what they have gone through,” Rama said.

“We want to relay to the whole community what it’s like as a modern-day young person so young people’s issues are dealt with in a positive way.”

As well as providing advice to the Centre, the YPBV participants will take part in seminars and conferences and will have the opportunity for self-development.

“We are not just milking them for their knowledge,” Ms Parke said. “We want to help them develop skills and abilities and will be providing training in areas including conflict resolution and running meetings.”

Director of the Centre, Associate Professor Anne Graham, said a group such as this was unique in universities.

“Too often we have research being conducted on young people, rather than with them,” Professor Graham said. “The involvement of the YPBV enables us to help ensure the research we are doing at Southern Cross University is relevant, accessible and will usefully inform policy and practice around children and young people living in rural and regional areas like ours.”

Photo: Some of the members of the Young People Big Voice (clockwise from front left) Maia Ryall, Rama Manzart, Robyn Fitzgerald, Brooke Avery, Jennifer Parke, Sarah Hort, Ben Cooper and Ahri Tallon.