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What’s FYA up to for Youth Week and why is it important?
We do Youth Week every week here because FYA is everyday in the space of focussing on young people in three ways;
-How they’re learning, and helping direct their independent learning
-Engaging with young people and how they’re interacting with their local communities and also how they’re facing their roles as global citizens
-Finding and backing young people and their projects
Soon we’ll be kicking off our ‘Change it up’ campaign that, across 10 or 12 local councils, facilitates forums where young people’s ideas can be heard. It’s not always just about young people getting out there on their own and trying to make things happen, we want them to know we’re here to support and encourage them and help to get their projects going.
What do young people bring to an organisation?
Of course they bring perspectives and ideas about how to engage young people themselves but beyond that, young people bring really creative ideas about how to create change and innovation. They look at old problems in a different way and reframe them. They bring an entire new set of tools to problem solving. Tools like social media, mobilisation, cross-discipline interests and passions and training. Those tools would be useful to every organisation.
It’s important to understand that there’s a real reciprocity in young people. They’re looking for mentors and support and direction but they can also be mentors. There’s such a good opportunity for reciprocal relationships with young people and we need to make sure it’s acknowledged that it’s not a one-way street.
Any major misconceptions about young people that you’ve come across?
All the way back to Socrates there’s been a narrative about young people being lazy. But really, when you look at it, all the greatest social change movements in history have been led by young people. Not only do they have a sense of what’s right and wrong, they also have the energy to make that change happen.
I heard a young person say something last week that I thought was really powerful. They said that today’s young people are living lives that have never been lived before and we can’t really say that about any other generation. Other generations had their own particulars but there was a large amount of consistency between generations. But a 12-year-old today is facing a reality that’s completely different to what any other 12-year-old has faced in the past. So we really need to understand the complexities of the world that young people are coming into.
The common thread across all generations of young people, though, is that there’s an incredibly strong drive, an optimism and hope for the future. Even though there’s that misconception of young people being lazy, one thing that holds true is that young people across all generations have had a need for purpose and connection with others. We’ve never seen such a critical mass of young people contributing to so many issues so passionately. They’re incredibly inspiring and anyone who isn’t backing them is doing a huge disservice.
Do you think young people should have a say in their sexual health?
I’d hoped we were at the back-end of an 80s model of consulting young people, which was basically asking them their opinions and then sticking it in the drawer and going ahead with what we’d originally planned anyway. I’m hoping we’re moving toward a model of co-design. Once a problem is identified we should be going to young people themselves straight away and involve them in the design of the solution from the very beginning. So much research shows that it’s best to design responses from the participant out- every time we do this the results are better than if a program is designed separately for a particular group and then imposed on them.
I want to go to the next level beyond token participation and consultation to co-design. We should be bringing issues to the table in a different model that explicitly brings the end user into the decision making process. This has happened in other parts of the community, for example mental health, and now we need to do it with sexual health.
Do you have any reflections on the sort of sex ed you received when you were younger?
My sex ed at school was very similar to a lot of people’s in the late 1970s. We didn’t receive any whiff of sex ed until very late along in high school. There was a film night organised and girls went to one with their mums and boys went to one with their dads. You sat awkwardly watching the film and then nothing was ever said about it again. If you were lucky, when you were walking back to the car, one of your parents would say, “Right, any questions?” The kids said “No” and the parents said “Good!” and that was it!
It was more of a ‘moment’ rather than being an ongoing conversation.
What would you say to young people wanting to get involved in a movement or organisation?
Everyone’s passionate about something if they’re given a chance to think about it. The question is what to do about it once you realise what your passion is! Fortunately now there are a lot of ways to get involved. Go through the process of learning about the topic and finding other people who share your passion.
Have a go! Nothing bad can happen and you could create something positive for change. Just find your tribe. They’re out there somewhere. Don’t be afraid to care about something.
For more of our Youth and Sexual Health Sector blog, check out these posts:
WIRE’s Service Delivery Co-ordinator, Sheridon Byrne discusses the importance of young women being empowered to take control of their sexual health. Read more.
RMIT’s Health Promotion Officer, David Towl, tells us why it’s important to have sex ed at uni. Read more.
Family Planning Victoria’s Medical Director, Kathleen McNamee, shares her tips for a safe sex Christmas. Read more.