Why did you want to be part of the Y’s Youth Parliament program?
There are a hugely disproportionate number of Aboriginal people in prison. It so often starts with youth offending, and becomes a cycle of reoffending, until they graduate straight from juvenile detention into the adult prison system.
A report from the Institute of Health and Welfare found that Indigenous people made up 50 percent of the young people in detention on an average day. 
I saw the Y’s Youth Parliament program as an opportunity for me to stand up and take action on this. It’s something I’m very passionate about and something that really shouldn’t be happening in our communities. I wanted to make sure that parliamentarians understand that changes are needed and have the opportunity to propose better solutions.
Why are we seeing such high numbers of young Aboriginal people in youth detention?
Growing up as an Aboriginal person, you tend to see a lot of social issues around you. There’s a lot of disadvantage andsystemic discrimination, particularly where I came from, and this can lead to over-policing. While some people might feel that over-policing occurs because of higher crime rates, this really ignores the underlying prob
Unfortunately, there’s a general lack of understanding around the root causes of juvenile offending. Rather than seeing disadvantage in Aboriginal communities as stemming from a crime problem, we need to start viewing it as a humanitarian issue arising from social and economic inequality.
How did Youth Parliament help you shine a light on these issues?
We know that helping young Aboriginal people form stronger links to their cultural heritage can help enormously. Teaching them traditional knowledge and cultural practices, and linking them up with their Elders and communities, can play a large part in addressing some of these issues, and giving young Aboriginal people some control over their lives.
The aim of the Bill I was working on in the Youth Parliament program was to create a legislatively enshrined framework for juvenile detention that promotes cultural education and provides well thought out welfare processes for young Aboriginal people.
In what ways have you been able to keep advocating for Aboriginal issues since your Youth Parliament experience?
When I went through the program, I was one of only two Aboriginal people on the Aboriginal Affairs Committee. So, in 2022, I pushed hard for better representation of Aboriginal people in this committee, as this really is essential in ensuring cultural understanding.
However, there were a few barriers to young Aboriginal people joining the Youth Parliament program – one being the program fee. There was also a lack of awareness of the program among Aboriginal communities. So, we established the Youth Parliament Indigenous Scholarship program and reached out to community organisations to spread the word to young Aboriginal people.
This year, the entire Aboriginal Affairs Committee of Youth Parliament is made up of Aboriginal people. This is a great step in the right direction. I was really impressed at how open those running the Youth Parliament program were to making small improvements and taking on suggestions from participants.
Even though the Bill we wrote has yet to be legislated, Youth Parliament was a great springboard for me as I am now using the skills, knowledge and networks I gained through the program. For example, I was the Australian delegate to the Commonwealth Youth Parliament program in Trinidad and Tobago last year. Following that, I was invited to attend the Commonwealth Day Lunch at NSW Parliament House. These kinds of things mean I’m able to have important conversations with people in positions of influence.
I am currently studying at Sydney Uni to become a lawyer, as I believe law is a great platform for advocacy. I’m one of the only Aboriginal editors of Honi Soit, the student newspaper, and this role allows me to bring important Aboriginal issues to a broad forum of young people.
The Youth Parliament program is such a great way for young people to learn how politics works and learn how to advocate for issues that are important to them. I was keen to continue to be a part of this, so I am now in the Youth Parliament Taskforce as the Parliament and Education Manager. My job is to make sure that Youth Parliament participants have the right institutional knowledge and parliamentary skills to participate fully in the program. Many young people don’t necessarily have access to these kinds of skills but it’s an essential step in being able to advocate successfully.
Where do you get your passion from?
My community motivates me. I feel supported and emboldened by the people around me. I’m driven by a desire to see change, whether it comes directly through my own advocacy or through my capacity to empower others. Unfortunately, I think that ‘politics-as-usual’ is becoming increasingly interested in performative theatrics and ‘gotcha’ moments on the floor of Parliament rather than constructive, solutions-based debate and effective service provision. While I’m sure some people feel disillusioned by this, I also see a lot of passionate young people around me every day who believe deeply in a better future and are willing to advocate firmly for our rights and freedoms.
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