Youth participation, as a form of consultation within policymaking processes in Australia, has been largely critiqued for its reliance on formal participation mechanisms that are rarely inclusive or representative of a range of young people’s experiences. This article shows that policymakers who are critical of formal methods of youth participation can identify contemporary effective practice and believe initiatives ought to be youth-led, purposeful, provide feedback and be creative and fun. Thus, there is a new awareness by policymakers of the effectiveness of integrating young people’s everyday perspectives into participation. Similarly, it was found that participation and active involvement in decision making was meaningful for young people when it was youth-led, fun and informal, and based on relevant, everyday issues rather than complex policy processes. So why has youth participation remained static and focused mainly on new formal initiatives? To examine this contrast in views and practices, the article presents findings from four discussion groups convened with senior government and community policymakers and a qualitative examination of both marginalized young people’s understanding of youth participation mechanisms and their capacity to influence policymaking that affected their everyday lives.