May 23, 2016

Sammi Taylor

High school students often find themselves stuck in an ‘in-between’ stage of life. On one hand, you’re forming political and social opinions every day—through the information you’re learning at school, online and in your social circles. But you’re still too young to vote in elections, and have your opinions and views heard loud and clear by those in positions of authority.

We’re fortunate that in Banyule, this isn’t the case for local youth.

The Banyule Youth Summit gives opportunity and voice to young people in the area, creating a safe and open space for them to voice their concerns and opinions, and have those voices heard loud and clear through real actions and results. In 2016, Banyule Youth Services hosted the second Youth Summit in the Council’s history—and like the first time round in 2014, it was an incredible opportunity for everyone involved.

On the morning of Friday May 6, 100 hundred high school students gathered at the Heidelberg Golf Club, eager to begin a day of sharing thoughts and experiences. They were split into small groups to discuss all manner of topics including gender equality, cultural and racial diversity, animal rights, the environment, mental health and more.

The day kicked off with an address from MC Deidre Fidge, social worker and ABC Comedy writer, and then a keynote speech from Thomas King, 2015 Young Victorian of the Year Finalist, and the founder of not-for-profit organisation, Say No To Palm Oil.


But even Thomas’ passionate speech was no match for the sheer magnitude of passion held by all 100 young people in the room. The day saw everyone engaging in critical and passionate discussions about issues close to their hearts, educating and informing one another every step of the way.

Group facilitators Amy Gray (for the Gender Equality table) and Liz Wyndham (Mental Health) were both excited and proud of their respective groups, for engaging respectfully in group discussions and offering challenging and stimulating questions and opinions.

“We are thrilled to be here today, it’s a fantastic opportunity for us at headspace to start our service to talk to some young people about what’s really important to them about promoting mental health and well-being,” says Liz.

“It’s great, because the act of reclaiming space as a woman has both personal and collective benefits,” Amy said about the work of the gender equality table.

At the end of the day (and after a fantastic catered lunch!) a young representative from each group took to the stage to present their recommendation for action to everyone in the room, including their peers, teachers, local council representatives and politicians.


It’s important to note that these recommendations are not just for a school project or ‘for fun’. Each recommendation ensures that real change happens in the community as new programs are birthed and existing ones altered to improve the every day experiences of young people in the community. In 2014, for example, the gender equality group proposed a feminist forum be held to educate young people on issues of gender equality. This happened on International Women’s Day in 2015. Similarly, a ‘Life Hacks’ book was developed after recommendations in 2014 revealed young people felt ill equipped to deal with adult life once leaving high school.

At this years Youth Summit, young people proposed a number of recommendations, including:

  • The mental health group came up with the idea for a social media campaign that raises awareness around mental illness.
  • The cultural diversity group suggested an art project to celebrate the similarities rather than differences between people of all cultures.
  • The gender equality table recommends that resources for all secondary schools will contain sufficient information that focuses on respectful relationships.
  • The gender and sexual diversity group want to launch a social media campaign that tackles homophobic language and stereotypes.
  • And our environment group ask that a youth representative environmental group be started to spearhead change and raise awareness about local environmental issues.


These recommendations will be taken into consideration over the coming months. Banyule’s track record on implementing these recommendations and creating real results and real change is fantastic, so there’s no doubt that many of these suggestions will become real programs and initiatives with time.

The overwhelmingly positive and enthusiastic response from young people about the Youth Summit shows not only that there are 100 incredibly passionate and talented teenagers in our community, but that giving them a voice can change our community for the better.

– Sammi Taylor

– Photos Cameron Wisthe





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