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Youth are not the future. They're the now.

By Jayden Delbridge, Founder, UrVoice Australia

“Young people are the future.”

For as long as I can remember, this rhetoric has been drilled into my generation by any adult with vocal chords and a will to use them. I disagree. We’re not the future, we’re the now.

With 30% of New South Wales residents under the age of 25, Youth Week is an important time to recognise and celebrate the work young people are doing.

This year’s theme of “Express. Empower. Get Loud!” serves as a reminder of the need to empower young people to be themselves and speak up about issues that affect them.

But we’re not just the future generation, we’re here now and our concerns are very real.

While young people are not afforded the same platform to express their concerns there are very real challenges confronting young people today.

According to the 2023 Mission Australia Youth Survey, 49 per cent of young people found school related challenges to be the biggest personal challenge experienced by young people, followed by mental health challenges at 24 per cent.

Respondents suggested that being comfortable to ask for support or advice, greater understanding from teachers and parents about stress levels, and better access to mental healthcare services would provide better assistance.

As both a young person and the Founder of UrVoice Australia, a non-for-profit founded on a mission to ensure young people feel comfortable to speak out about wellbeing concerns, I can only echo these sentiments.

I believe that the education system is one of greatest places to empower young people to use their voice and speak out.

It’s clear that the education system has a role to play in supporting the social and emotional wellbeing of students.

Schools should be havens of happiness, health, and belonging. Yet, students are calling for reform, dissatisfied with the status quo.

Schools need to be an environment that makes it possible for their students to thrive and achieve, not only academically but in all ways that relate to their overall wellbeing.

When we invest time into student’s wellbeing and empower them to speak up about the issues affecting them, we get an institution that allows students to express themselves.

It means students can stop forcing themselves to fit into a mould.

Advisory roles such as the headspace National Youth Reference Group and NSW Youth Advisory council have given me the opportunity to use my lived experience to provide decision makers with a new way of thinking, but it’s time to empower other young people to get loud.

Late last month the Federal Minister for Youth, Dr Anne Aly, launched the strategy to include young people in decision making, aptly named ‘Engage!’

Dr Aly says: “Young people want to be included in government decision-making”.

Ensuring young people feel empowered to use their voice is pivotal.

Through getting involved in the decision-making process, I feel like I’ve made a positive contribution to the future of my generation.

I’m passionate about cultivating an environment where every student feels empowered to stand up and voice wellbeing concerns, and that’s what I’ll continue to do.

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