160 young people from across NSW will begin to debate a range of significant and controversial issues as the YMCA NSW Youth Parliament sitting week gets underway today (Monday, July 11) at Parliament House in Macquarie Street.
The 15th annual event was officially opened by NSW Governor David Hurley earlier this morning.
Over four sitting days, the cohort, aged between 15-18, will debate bills on issues as wide-ranging as drug testing at festivals, introducing unisex bathrooms in schools as a means to reduce homophobia and violence against LGBTIQ students, and adding ‘mental health days’ to NSW workers’ leave entitlements.
At the end of the sitting week, all pieces of youth legislation will be presented to NSW MPs for consideration as state law. The incredibly successful program has had over half a dozen pieces of youth legislation passed into NSW Law over the past 15 years, including the recent Domestic Violence Disclosure Scheme.
2016 NSW Youth Premier and Youth Member for Newcastle, Abby Butler, says that Youth Parliament gives young people an extraordinary platform to be heard by our elected officials.
“For plenty of young people, it can seem as though our voices are drowned out by the enormity of big societal issues. The YMCA NSW Youth Parliament is a program that grows our voices, giving young people across the state a platform to speak and debate on the issues we are passionate about,” Ms Butler explained.
YMCA NSW CEO Leisa Hart said the program continues to break new ground every year.
“By simply giving our young people a platform to be heard, we open up so many opportunities to improve and strengthen our communities through their ideas,” Ms Hart said. “I am incredibly proud that the YMCA NSW Youth Parliament program continues to have a hand in shaping policy in this state and look forward to seeing what this year’s talented Parliamentarians can achieve.”
The program is coordinated by a volunteer taskforce of past-participants aged between 18 and 25, who facilitate youth-led advocacy, community leadership and education about the parliamentary process.
For more information on the YMCA NSW Youth Parliament, visit http://www.ymcansw.org.au/centres/youth-government/ymca-nsw-youth-parliament
Case Study – Mental Health in the Workplace (to be debated Thursday 14 July 11.20am)
The Legislative Assembly Committee Investigating Mental Health is developing a bill to strengthen workplace protection for those suffering from mental illnesses, and to foster a culture of mentally healthy workplaces across NSW.
The Bill proposes a number of measures such as ‘mental health days’ as a legitimate form of leave, compulsory manager training in mental health first aid and onsite counsellors for companies with over 500 employees, a specialised support hotline, and a NSW Mental Health in the Workplace Board which will advocate on behalf of employees and provide support in illegal cases of dismissal.
The Youth Minister for Mental Health, Vivian Zhao, says that the mechanisms proposed in the Bill will provide support for generations of NSW employees.
“As the next generation of workers, we can clearly see the lack of services to support the mental health of people in these stressful work environments, and we understand that there is a real need for something to be implemented to address this problem,” she says.
Ms Zhao is confident in the potential of young people regarding this issue. “The sheer fact that my generation is considering the wellbeing of workers over the economic gain of a business is indicative of how far society has come, and will hopefully help to break down the stigmas surrounding mental health.”Back to news