More than 10 years since she became involved in the Y NSW’s Youth Parliament program, Tahlia Kittos is giving back to the platform that supported her passion for creating change.
Tahlia, 29, knows what it’s like to be on both sides of the fence; she was twice a Youth Parliamentarian before joining the volunteer taskforce and eventually coordinating the Y NSW’s flagship youth leadership program.
It’s why she remains passionate about supporting it, this year sponsoring three participants through her organisation Empowered Living Care, which provides disability care for communities in south Sydney.
Tahlia said it was important to give young people of all abilities an opportunity to have their voices heard.
“It’s important that Youth Parliament reflects our society. Young people with a disability should get the same opportunities as everyone else and their opportunities are no different. Everyone has a right to advocate for issues that are important to them,” she said.
Her passion for making a difference in the disability sector started during her school years, when she saw firsthand the need for inclusiveness and compassion.
“Schoolyard bullying was huge and a lot of people who attended our mainstream school with a disability were on the outer. There were a couple of students from lower age groups who gravitated towards my friendship circle … they relied on us in the playground,” she said.
Tahlia’s inherent desire to help others “in any way, shape or form” led to her involvement on the school representative council and it was at a state conference that she first heard about the Y’s Youth Parliament program. Looking back, her drive to advocate for peers with a disability was “probably the biggest reason” she signed the application.
Her first year as a Youth Parliamentarian was eye-opening.
“It was incredible. It was something I’d never experienced before. Residential camp allowed me to meet like-minded people across the state,” Tahlia said.
“You can’t describe it to anyone who hasn’t been involved in it. It’s a feeling of connection and it’s just wholesome. It’s such a wholesome experience – the culture of camp and being surrounded by people who can provide you with so much more information about the world than you thought was even possible. It’s really inspiring.
“As a volunteer I still learnt so much from the youth groups that were coming through. Even as a coordinator I was learning from the groups coming through.”
Tahlia hopes to continue sponsoring participants in the future through her organisation, which began with three clients and now serves hundreds of families.