Vesinia Maka and Damian Piilua are the Chair and Deputy Chair, of the Auckland Youth Advisory Panel. I had the privilege of finding out some more about the panel and the work that they and the 19 other members do.
The panel is made up of 21 youth from across Auckland, representing a different local board area. With representatives from Rodney right down to Franklin, thinking and advocating on the issues that face youth.
An Aotearoa Youth Declaration Focus Group visiting the Auckland Youth Advisory Panel on Outreach in 2018
What is the Youth Advisory Panel and your role on the panel?
Our primary role is to provide feedback to the Auckland Council on issues we identify as a panel. These issues we identify become our work program! Which for this term is environment and sustainability, transport and accessibility, affordable housing and homelessness, youth engagement and civic participation. In addition to that, we are trying to make connections with our local young people through our local boards and youth voice groups to get more of a local implication of regionalpolicy. And as the leadership team, our role is to really develop a work programme that co-aligns with the members of the panel and enforce the priorities that we have listed for the panel this term.
How important do you see the panel to be in regards to a youth voice in Auckland
Vesinia: The Youth Advisory Panel is an opportunity to ensure that the voices of young people are included in the decision-making of Tamaki Makaurau. It allows transparency in issues that affect a large proportion of young people such as, transport, homelessness and housing. It is incredibly important that we are providing a youth voice for young Aucklanders.
Damian: I see the panel as abig step towards greater civics participation from the youth demographic in Auckland. Part of our greater vision for the panel is for us is to have young people in Auckland understand local government and the impact of their decisions in our everyday lives.
Do you think the panel works to reduce the stigma that youth aren’t interested in Politics?
Vesinia: It is a slow process of reducing the stigma of youth becoming uninterested in Politics. As a new panel, it’s important that we increase our engagement with the wider youth, both on a local and regional level. However, with many of our panel members having strong relationships in their local youth groups, it has allowed engagement in regards to consultations of issues that matter to young people. So, in regards to reducing the stigma of youth becoming uninterested in Politics; I think it’s a slow progress. However, by having amazing members on this panel, it’s allowed for accountability when many organisations and departments are interested in our opinions.
Why do you think that a large proportion of high school students do not care about politics and deem it to be unimportant or irrelevant to their lives?
Damian: This is such a weighted question with viewpoints from different sectors I think. In part, I believe this question has to do with the curriculum in schools not reflecting the importance, and influence of local and central government decisions in our daily lives. I also think that it has to do with the media surrounding what politics is displayed. For many young people (myself included) we associate politics with the Beehive, parties that are not fun, screaming matches with Marama Fox vs. The world, and are showcasing decisions made by the government negatively. So for a school student with 6 subjects, a smartphone, 7 social media sites and drama with real-life impacts, politics may not be a high priority.
Is the political landscape inhospitable to those under 18, making it unappealing to young New Zealanders?
Damian: I feel yes, and no. I think the political landscape isn’t inhospitable, it is unfamiliar. There’s a difference. There is a growing number of millennials in NZ and it’s an untapped demographic that politics is recognising as an important opinion to have in future planning for policies and strategic plans. However, the engagement between politics is what makes it unappealing to young people. From the tables, I’ve sat around where 40+-year-olds sit, plan and design visuals for marketing purposes for young people It makes things it very apparent how out of touch the government is with young people. Politics operates in an almost mechanic way regionally, so it’s hard for young people to break the glass ceiling, be taken seriously and not be treated as the token demographic tick box.
Overall, we think we all have a role to play. From the campaigns of candidates to youth councils in local areas to the individual’s semi-versed in the world that is politics. We all have a responsibility to encourage those around us to be apart of conversations that impact a majority of our lives in one way or another. Politics is something that is complicated in itself and for many young people, they are still trying to understand what politics really is. Basic knowledge and information such as how to vote, the role of local boards and what mandate local boards have, are simple things that are vital when providing young people with the resources to actively participate and thrive in local decision making.
By Julia Caulfield