Speech by The Hon Sussan Ley MP

Opening Of The 7th National Youth Roundtable


Good morning to you all. I would like to begin by acknowledging the elders and traditional owners of the Ngunnawal people on whose land we are meeting today

I would also like to extend a warm welcome to Roundtable members, my Ministerial and parliamentary colleagues, Departmental heads and officers, ladies and gentlemen

Welcome all of you to Canberra and to Parliament House and thank you for your show of commitment to this important event

It is a great pleasure to be here to open the seventh National Youth Roundtable (Roundtable)

This is my second Roundtable as the Parliamentary Secretary for Children and Youth Affairs and I am looking forward to spending time with you all, listening to your ideas and exchanging views

The Roundtable was the centrepiece of the Howard Government’s Voices of Youth Initiative in 1999

Each year since then, the Roundtable has given young Australians the opportunity to speak directly with the Government about the issues that impact upon them

There are 30 Roundtable members this year, aged between 16 and 24, of which five of you were also members of last year’s group

You were selected for these positions out of 450 applicants nationwide and I congratulate you on an achievement of which you all should be proud

Having worked with some of you before and having read the biographies of new members, I am confident you have the capacity to truly represent the diversity of views among your peers – Australia’s youth

You are secondary and tertiary level students, workers, volunteers, leaders and entrepreneurs

Your interests cover the spectrum of issues shaping this nation in cities and in the bush; Indigenous, environmental, socio-economic, crime, drugs, suicide, mental health, family breakdowns, cultural diversity, education, healthSome of you have also overcome personal tragedy and hardships to be here today

And as young people you offer a unique insight into these issues and many more

Again, welcome to you all and the areas you come from including Esperance in Western Australia, Numbulwar in Arnhem Land, Prosperine in Queensland and Albury in New South Wales.

Not only do you come from distinctly different regions but you also care about a diverse range of issues facing young Australians today

This Roundtable, like our country, has great cultural diversity and such diversity brings forward many different viewpoints

I am sure each one of you will speak with your own voice, while respecting the right of your fellows to see things differently

It is a testament to the strength and depth of our society that each year we can bring together a new group of young people who are passionate about making our world a better place

You are likely to learn many skills during your term on the Roundtable and they may well be useful to you in later life

These skills include a working knowledge of Government processes, team building, project planning, consultation, media awareness and speechmaking

One of the most important learning experiences of the National Youth Roundtable is that teamwork and peer support are essential in making change possible

Certainly individuals can accomplish a great deal but working with a group of dedicated peers is something very special and a key to achieving political success

Your involvement in this Youth Roundtable can and does achieve real and positive results

Today means you can begin the process of sharing your ideas with decision-makers in government and the bureaucracy whose support could well make those ideas a reality

Sometimes it may seem that it takes a long time to turn ideas into plans and plans into action

Understanding that you can make a difference and influence policy-making through working with government is an important part of thisIn working together, as a Roundtable and with government, everyone achieves more

This year, as part of its evolving nature, Roundtable members will be able to develop their topics of interest within areas that Australian Government departments have identified as being of immediate interest to government

This will provide a great focus to the results of your efforts and enhance the already significant successes of previous Roundtables

During its relatively brief history the Roundtable and individual members have made a real difference

Ideas and initiatives from previous Roundtables have led to:

Greater protection for apprentices’ rights and working conditions through establishment of a National Code of Good Practice for New Apprenticeships;

A register for young people wishing to take part in decision-making boards, committees and forums;

An internet-based National Directory of Youth Organisations;

Formation of the National Indigenous Youth Leadership Group which gives young Indigenous Australians better access to Government decision-making processes;

Greater recognition of young people’s achievements in working with local government with a Youth Engagement category in the National Awards for Local Government

Individual Roundtable members have also secured financial support from the Australian and State Governments to make their ideas become real

Lachie Cameron was given an $11,000 grant by the Queensland Government to raise awareness and explore solutions to the problem of youth homelessness in rural areas

Shasheen Jayaweera was backed by the Australian Department of Education, Science and Training (DEST) to publish the Youth LEAP guide which identifies the best youth enterprise and leadership development programmes

Ainsley Gilkes and Will Scully Power received $45,000 from the Australian Government to develop the web resource, Enterprise Junction

This resource lists programmes, awards, grants and other support services for young entrepreneurs and encourages entrepreneurship as a viable career option for young people

Two members of the 2004 Roundtable, Samuel Goodwin and Ula Wiszniewski, have also been selected to represent Young Australians at the four day Commonwealth Youth Forum in Malta in November this yearAnother member of last year’s Roundtable, Joseph Pickett, secured a $3500 grant from the Tasmanian Government for his Say It Loud and Clear project

This innovative project saw about 40 year 11 and 12 students produce their own short films which highlighted how young people see things differently to other people

One of our returned Roundtable members, Lauren Jew, laid out a mission statement in her topic group last year which I think is an effective guide for your deliberations this week

“Our mission is to inspire young Australians to participate in all areas of their local communities, empowering them to face important issues and create positive change,” she said

“It is important to encourage young people to face and acknowledge the multitude of issues concerning them. Young people should be active in their different communities

“They should feel their contribution will make a difference – and that difference should start locally

This will empower them to make a difference and influence Australia’s future.”

I wish you all every success in your endeavours here and into the future

I have great pleasure in declaring the National Youth Roundtable 2005 open