YMCA Youth & Government History
The YMCA Youth and Government program was established in 1936 in New York by Clement “Pete” Duran, then the Boys Work Secretary for the Albany YMCA. The program motto, “Democracy must be learned by each generation,” was taken from a quote by Dr. Earle T. Hawkins, the founder of the Maryland Youth and Government program.
Sandra Day O’Connor (former Associate Justice of the US Supreme Court) and Roy Romer (former Governor of Colorado) said about the importance of engaging students in the legal process – “Most young people today simply do not have an adequate understanding of how our government and political system work, and they are thus not well prepared to participate as citizens.”
The YMCA's mission is to "help create the next generation of thoughtful, committed and active citizens" by teaching them the "principles of a democratic society." They also intend to create leaders through their roles in the models of local, state and national government. The premise is that "leaders are developed by doing."
The first Australian Youth Parliament was held in Brisbane in 1963, based on the American "YMCA Youth and Government" concept. There is a YMCA youth parliament in every Australian state and territory.
The program was first launched in 2002, attracting 32 participants representing regional teams from across New South Wales. In 2016 the program now attracts 298 participants across all the suits (youth, junior and parliament primary school).
YMCA NSW strengthens localities by engaging youth with development opportunities and helping individuals overcome challenges and achieve personal goals.
Why this program is important
A 2013 Deloitte paper stated the NSW 5-18 year old school aged population to be 1.3 million people, making up 16.2% of the NSW population (same study stated this as 7.4 million people). With our electoral system excluding people under 18 years of age from voting, the YMCA’s Youth and Government program creates a forum for ‘voters of tomorrow’ to have an opportunity to voice their concerns on issues and propose initiatives to shape their future.
All 2016 participants in the Youth Parliament will have left school and should be eligible to vote at the next NSW election to be held in March 2019.