Youth Parliament driving change in WA

Youth Parliament driving change in WA

The political leaders of our future gathered last week in Parliament to present and debate bills on various issues from gaps in women’s health services addressing areas such as sexual assault and sexual health, to the establishment of new waste management systems and calling for improvements to healthcare services for Aboriginal Australians living in rural WA.

The Y Youth Parliament is a six-month leadership program empowering youth to participate in our democratic processes and offering experience in public speaking and writing legislation, based around issues they feel are most important to our state. The program culminated last week as the group presented and debated the eight bills they wrote, in Parliament House.

Now in its 28th year, 59 participants aged between 15-25 who represent every electorate in the state were split into eight committees, each representing policy areas based around their interests. The eight committees for 2023 were Environment and Climate Action, Science and Innovation, Multicultural and Aboriginal Interests, Women’s Interests, Health and Mental Health, Child Protection, Electoral Affairs and Police and Justice.

Each committee researched their portfolio area and worked together to draft a bill that tackles important issues within the policy area. 19-year-old Jovan Fidanovski, the Youth Premier and Member for Balcatta, was on The Health and Mental Health Committee, drafting a bill to address issues around WA ambulance services.

The Bill was for an Act to; establish a state-run WA Ambulance Service to provide the people of WA with a free and accessible medical emergency service that ensures consistent standards, practices, and training across all regions of Western Australia, committed to saving lives, promoting health, and enhancing the well-being of the community.

Jovan says, “People often say youth are the leaders of tomorrow, but I disagree, we are leaders now. Youth Parliament allows us to do what real members do and empowers us to stand up and speak our minds, having our voices heard.

“Earlier in the year I had a big health scare and when I needed a ride in an ambulance for lifesaving care, I was hit with a bill for around $1,500. Luckily, I had private health, but WA is the only state in Australia that doesn’t have a state run ambulance service. That’s why we put this bill forward to provide free and accessible medical emergency care to every West Australian.”

Doug Jackson, the Youth Governor, and a Shire of Peppermint Grove Councillor is now in his fifth year of the program. He says, “2023 brought together an exciting group with diverse backgrounds, life stories and experiences. This dynamic group was very representative of young people across WA, and they wrote bills covering topical issues that they are passionate about.”

The Youth Parliament debates were overseen by real Members of Parliament including influential West Australian political figures such as the Hon. Simone McGurk MLA, Minister for Youth and Hon. Michelle Roberts MLA, Speaker of the Legislative Assembly. At the conclusion of the program all bills were presented to the State Government, and Governor.

Several previously presented bills have led to real changes in state legislation. The program has also seen many of its participants go on to work for Members of Parliament and Political Parties, some have even become elected officials themselves, citing Senator Jordan Steele-John (The Greens), Doug Jackson (Councillor for the Shire of Peppermint Grove) and Amy Astill (Councillor for City of Kalgoorlie-Boulder) as previous participants.

Other topical bills being passionately debated by the group included the Youth Justice Reform Bill, a Bill for an Act to; reform the treatment of juveniles and young people within Western Australia’s criminal justice system to ensure thriving futures and safer communities. There was also a Regulations of Artificial Intelligence Bill, a Bill for an Act to; introduce regulations to address artificial intelligence and the impacts associated with its use.

The Y WA CEO Dr Tim McDonald says, “At the Y our intentions are always based around giving young people a voice and no program offers that more than Youth Parliament. It allows young people to determine their own futures, offers invaluable networking and builds pathways for young people wanting to create change.”  

This article originally appeared as a media release by ‘The Y’