Creating Benefit for All – Young People, Engagement and Public Policy

Young people’s participation in the economic, political and cultural life of all Australians is fundamental both now and in the future. Their participation contributes to healthier, happier individuals and communities, and a stronger, more resilient democracy capable of responding effectively to complex challenges such as mental health, environmental and economic change. New forms of participation and collaboration – especially via digital media technologies – offer real opportunity to embed diversity in young people’s participation in government and community decision making. However, at the federal level, young people are more marginalised from formal policy processes than ever before. In 2016 there is no Ministerial responsibility for youth, limited cross- government consideration of youth perspectives and initiatives to promote young people’s contributions and advocate for their interests, such as National Youth Week and the Australian Youth Affairs Coalition, have been defunded. Dominant policy approaches to youth engagement focus on their participation ‘in’ education, employment and training. These policies are often aimed at remedying perceived deficits or deterring them from ‘anti-social’ alternatives. Youth enterprise and leadership are also celebrated and occasionally supported
by government, not all young people have equitable access to such opportunities. Others wish to act and be recognised in other ways. Moreover, there is a lack of data on young
people’s and policy makers’ views regarding involvement in policy processes which could inform a national framework that puts young people at the centre of public policy.