House debates

Tuesday, 4 December 2018


Washington, Mr Amos

7:40 pm

Photo of Rebekha SharkieRebekha Sharkie (Mayo, Centre Alliance) Share this | | Hansard source

Amos Washington is a young person from my electorate of Mayo. He's this year's Australia's youth representative to the United Nations. As part of his role, Amos embarked on a nationwide listening tour, consulting with thousands of young people across the country. In consultations he sought to answer the question: what would Australia look like if young people had a greater say? Amos ran consultations in schools, community groups, not-for-profits, universities, TAFE colleges and juvenile detention centres. He visited our big cities and our remote communities and he spoke with young people from a diverse range of backgrounds. In September and early October, Amos spent six weeks working at the Australian Permanent Mission to the United Nations in New York. There he delivered a speech on behalf of young Australians to the Third Committee of the United Nations General Assembly. This week Amos releases the Australian youth representative consultation report. The report is the culmination of thousands of conversations with young people across the country and summarises Amos's findings for the year. The top three issues raised in consultation this year were mental health and wellbeing, discrimination and inequality, and education.

The prevalence of problems relating to mental health and wellbeing is an issue that has increased significantly since last year's youth representative report. Young Australians consider mental health issues to be at a crisis point. When young Australians spoke to Amos about mental health, they expressed their concern about inadequate access to youth mental health services, a lack of education about mental health issues and particular challenges that young people experience with respect to mental health when they live in regional Australia. In Amos's consultations, young people saw the interconnections between mental health and other community issues. Young people that he spoke to around the country shared stories of challenging issues that they face and how these issues affect their wellbeing. An Aboriginal high school student Amos met in Tasmania expressed sadness that her education has not provided her with enough knowledge about her cultural heritage and her shared stories with other Aboriginal Australians. Culturally diverse young people from Western Sydney shared stories about verbal harassment and discrimination simply because of how they look. In consultation in a small regional town in my home state of South Australia, a young group of women identified a connection between a lack of enjoyable activities for young people and increased crime, drug and alcohol abuse, racism and poor mental health.

Amos's report emphasises that the wellbeing of young people impacts on the rest of our community and that, if we support young peoples' wellbeing and participation, the whole of our community benefits. One young woman in a consultation in remote South Australia felt as though young people were merely in the peripheral vision of leaders. We politicians must do better to ensure that young people are not only heard but also included and actively encouraged to participate in the political process and policy decision-making. We can enrich our policy conversations in here, if we bring young people to the table.

In his report, Amos provides eight recommendations that came about from his conversations with those thousands of young people. Amos is sitting here in the chamber tonight. This year, Amos sought to answer the question: what would Australia look like if young people had a greater say? In his speech, he said:

If young people had a greater say in decision-making and setting our policy agenda, our world would be kinder, safer, and healthier. If young people had a greater say, our world would truly be more united.

I could not agree more. There's much said about our young people, and often it is negative. In my electorate of Mayo I am incredibly proud to have such wonderful young people as Amos. We have many, many good young people, and they are our next leaders—our next generation. I seek leave to table the 2018 Australian youth representative consultation report, and I commend Amos on all of his good works in representing Australia at the UN.

Leave granted.

Thank you.