Giving Youth a Voice

Over the decades, Auburn Youth Centre has been persistent in seeking youth input for the planning of their own activities, and has focused on encouraging youth agency, so that young people can instigate change and make their own decisions about things which affect them.

In 1996 the Parramatta Advertiser conducted an interview with youth from AYC. Reporter Sonia Milohanic was puzzled in that she seemed to have ‘hit a brick wall’ in asking for their input. The four youth from AYC ‘appeared to have little idea what they wanted in their district, what it was like to grow up surrounded by different cultures, or what aspirations they had for the future’[1].

‘Or was it that no one had ever really asked them before? When given a voice they didn’t seem to know quite what to do with it’, she wrote. AYC coordinator Al Bingham said that this was definitely the case and that the AYC was working to overcome this silence. Not only were youth encouraged to have their say in the regular and holiday offer of AYC, but special initiatives, including the Youth Entertainment Crew and the Youth Council were supported by the AYC to give youth a voice.

 

Youth Council:

In 1993 Garry Hancock, coordinator of AYC, announced his intention so set up a Youth Council where young people would be given a platform to speak up about and address youth issues. It was intended to give young people a united voice to be able to instigate more effective change and lobby the council with a united front[2]. Unfortunately, at that point in time, the council was not able to come into fruition. Garry couldn’t seem to garner enough youth interest in the council. He announced ‘in the pipeline is an Auburn Youth Council to look at broader issues affecting young people in the Auburn area. We don’t appear to be able to get enough young people interested in joining the Youth Council’[3]. He suggested that this was because youth either didn’t know about the resources available to them, were too afraid to use them, were too lazy to find out what was available, didn’t know how to access services, or faced cultural barriers to accessing them[4]. The youth council would give them a chance to speak out.

In 1995, the Auburn Council tried to establish a Youth Council, which was also unable to attract the necessary support[5].

In 2000, the Auburn Council put forward an idea for the Auburn Youth Advisory Committee. It was to be coordinated solely by youth aged 12-24, with youth workers invited to attend meetings as observers[6]. The first meeting brought in a healthy crowd who had many bright ideas, including regular community events, a basketball competition and more drop-in services[7]. Newspaper reports say that the AYAC was a joint venture between the AYC and Auburn Council. William Costis, Council Community Development Worker, clarified that it was initiated by the council but had become a partnership between the AYC and the local community[8]. Nevertheless, the Auburn Youth Centre played a key role in supporting and facilitating the AYAC, often hosting their regular meetings at its premises. The AYAC organised a Youth Forum in 2000, encouraging youth to put forward their ideas on issues which were important to them:substance abuse, media perceptions of youth, racism, peer pressure and, most of all, boredom [9].

Article from Auburn Review, 5th April 2005, p. 7.
Article from Auburn Review, 5th April 2005, p. 7.

Youth Entertainment Crew:

The Youth Entertainment Crew (YEC) was a joint initiative between the Lidcombe Salvation Army Youth Centre and the Auburn Youth Resource Centre, which aimed to give local youth a say in the planning and organisation of social and entertainment activities. It was formed in January of 1986 in response to high demand from local youth for under 18s discos. Grant Howard of Lidcombe Salvation Army Youth Centre explained that the YEC was formed because there was very little affordable entertainment available for under-18s in the area[10].

Given that neither the AYRC nor the SAYC had suitable premises at the time, the very first disco organised by the YEC was held in Lidcombe Scout Hall. It was a ‘resounding success and shows an obvious need for a community based youth centre’ [11].

Tony Lee Colley breakdacing at the YEC Disco. Photograph found in Auburn Review, 26th March 1986, p. 8.
Tony Lee Colley breakdacing at the YEC Disco. Photograph found in Auburn Review, 26th March 1986, p. 8.

 

From left to right: Kylee Thompson, Shane Niansen, Milisha See, Michelle Dean, Lesa Anlezart and Cathy Curky at the YEC disco. Photograph found in Auburn Review, 26th March 1986, p. 8.
From left to right: Kylee Thompson, Shane Niansen, Milisha See, Michelle Dean, Lesa Anlezart and Cathy Curky at the YEC disco. Photograph found in Auburn Review, 26th March 1986, p. 8.

Michelle Burgemeister of the Auburn Youth Resource Centre said that the ‘YEC has given these young people the opportunity to have a real say in what they want, to have a good time and learn some valuable skills in organising and cooperating’[12].

 

 

[1] Parramatta Advertiser, May 22, 1996, p. 10.

[2] Auburn Review, April 21, 1993, p. 1.

[3] Auburn Review, September 1, 1993, p. 3.

[4] Auburn Review, September 1, 1993, p. 3.

[5] Auburn Review, July 26, 1995, p. 2.

[6] Auburn Review, March 8, 2000, p. 8.

[7] Auburn Review, March 29, 2000, p. 3.

[8] Auburn Review, November 15, 2000, p. 10.

[9] Auburn Review, June 28, 2000, p. 3.

[10] Auburn Review, March 26, 1986, p. 8.

[11] Auburn Review, April 9, 1986, p. 1.

[12] Auburn Review, December 3, 1986, p. 5.