The Auckland Youth Advisory Panel

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

“Bossy”- It’s Real Meaning

Ever since I started school I’ve been a bright kid. In primary school, my hand was always up. I was in the gifted classes, I was labeled a leader, and I was confident in sharing my opinion, making friends and directing the conversation.

But by the time I reached intermediate school, things had begun to change. When given group projects I was continually told to stop being the “mum”. Not because I was caring or looked after everyone but because I “nagged them”. I was labeled “bossy” for the same characteristics that had previously been called leading. A label that not so surprisingly, none of my male counterparts got. The male students who took charge, raised their voice and tried to lead were told they had leadership potential, earned respect and were even labeled caring for trying to guide others.

Now, I often find myself sat in a university lecture hall in fear of being called on. I often bite my tongue in discussion because I don’t want to be seen as telling everyone what they should think. Or I lack the confidence to back up my opinion. When someone needs to take charge I’m far less inclined to lean in, because I don’t want to deal with the strife of being called “mum.” Never mind battling to get my voice heard.

Using the word “bossy” severely impacted my, and other women’s, confidence and leadership ambitions. It’s something that started in middle school, but keeps growing and continues throughout life. And it is an inherently gendered insult.

Bossy is defined as domineering, overbearing and fond of giving people orders. Yet it is commonly associated with any woman who asserts herself. I’ve read many articles like “how not to let a bossy woman undermine you in the workplace,” or “10 types of women men don’t want to marry” which of course included the “bossy woman”.

We are more likely to call an intelligent, organised, confident, logical girl who also puts her hand up bossy. Whereas her male counterpart will be admired for the same traits. As Sheryl Sandberg said “imagine if every girl who was called bossy was told she has leadership potential” This is because behind the hostility is a regressive, persistent view of what a woman should be. A woman should be kind, the feminine ideal, accommodating, a mother, a “good girl.”

But these stereotypes are a trap for women, if you exhibit the more ‘masculine traits’ associated with being a good and successful leader then you will be labeled bossy and disliked. But if you exhibit the soft skills of a woman such as caring for other, being modest, accommodating, then you are not seen as a worthy or good leader.

These stereotypes are the reason we need campaigns such as “Ban Bossy” by Lean In and Girl Scouts of America. It aims to promote self-censorship and criticism of the word bossy, recognising its negative impact on young women and their leadership. It is about starting a conversation and getting people to recognise the subconscious stereotypes and gender bias that come with the word.

What do Beyoncé, Condoleezza Rice & Jane Lynch have in common? They’ve committed to ban the word bossy. Watch this Lifetime PSA to hear why. #banbossy /

So now I sit in a university lecture hall reminding myself of these facts. I make a conscious effort to call out not just the use of “bossy” but any other gendered subconscious bias fueled comment. Simply posing the question. Would that still have been said if the individual was male? I still feel grief that for so long I carried around guilt of being “bossy” and allowed this to impact my self confidence, my self worth both physically, mentally, emotionally and interpersonally. My hope is not to ban bossy but simply the hope that when the time comes around, my daughter can be strong, assertive and independent without shame, or have anxiety of the word “bossy.” Equally, I hope that my son can be tender, emotional, passive without fear of the similar ridicule.

By Maisy Bently