F is for Youth Action and Policy Association

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By Amanda Parkinson

Why would an entire organisation be purely dedicated to youth action and policy? The Youth Action and Policy Association (YAPA) is forcing State and Federal Politicians to listen to the needs of New South Wales’ youth.

Eamon Waterford, Policy Coordinator at YAPA, helps develop campaigns on issues facing NSW’s disadvantaged youth. “…anything that affects young people aged 12-25 is fair game! We’re currently working on issues surrounding juvenile justice, learner drivers, housing affordability, public transport and reform of the youth sector,” he says.

YAPA has successfully run a number of campaigns over the past few years aimed at minimising youth disadvantage. Eamon says an issue close to his heart is juvenile justice. “It’s been an interesting time where politics, media and the community are all in flux on this issue – so I’m hopeful that we’ll have some good outcomes in the next year or so.”

Currently YAPA is developing a program aimed at educating young people about the dangers of domestic and intimate-partner violence.

“We’re finding that many young people don’t have a strong understanding of what constitutes healthy and unhealthy relationships and attitudes, so we’re putting together some ideas for a training package on that,” says Eamon.

“Young women are also over-represented in the homelessness statistics, often staying in unsafe or unstable accommodation,” says Eamon. In 2010 data collected from the Supported Accommodation Assistant Program (SAAP) confirmed 1 in 122 females aged 10 years and over became a client of a specialist homelessness agency. The same surveyed confirmed 1 in 50 women aged between 15 to 19 years old would become clients of homelessness agencies.

Through it’s fortnightly magazine Unleash and bimonthly newsletter YAPRAP, the association attempts to voice fundamental issues affecting youth’s livelihood. It calls for submissions for young readers to ensure there is a platform for their clients voice to be heard.

Over the past few years there has been an explosion of youth led organisation in Australia, giving young people their own space to have their voice heard. Australian youth have capitalised on the social media revolution by creating online campaigns and organisations which have direct access to politicians and media. In December 2010, the Australian Government and Cooperative Research Centres Program announced a $27M investment dedicated to working with young people to develop and trial new online technologies aimed at improving mental health and promoting wellbeing.

Jane Burns, Associate Professor from the Cooperative Research Centre for Young People says technologies have dramatically transformed young people’s relationships with one another, their families and communities. Young people’s online behaviour is often not well understood resulting in a digital disconnect‟ between young people’s use of technology and the knowledge and concerns that parents, professionals and community members share about this use.

Eamon says YAPA is looking at ways to engage in political discussions through social media sites like Reddit, Twitter and Tumblr.

Young people are discussing issues that dwell in the political sphere – discussing climate change, mental health, homelessness ect. Young people are finding they can go on Reddit and discuss economic theory in-between posting cat videos; or post short thoughts on Tumblr with spaces for a back and forth between bloggers that isn’t governed by traditional concepts of media. And this is something that YAPA tries to be involved in.

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