photo: Byron High School principal Peter King with Youth Parliamentarian Ngurungaeta Brown and Jan Barham MLC.
Story & photo Eve Jeffery
The YMCA New South Wales Youth Parliament is a program that gives young people a voice in the running of NSW. It is a place where the opinions and concerns of young people in NSW are heard by those who have the power to make laws.
Each member of the Legislative Council is asked to choose a young person to take a place in the Youth Parliament. Jan Barham MLC asked local Arakwal teenager Ngurungaeta Brown to represent the area in Sydney.
Ngurungaeta, who is in year 11 at Byron Bay High School, says even though he is looking forward to the opportunity, he is also a little anxious about his time in Sydney. ‘I’m more nervous than excited,’ he says. ‘I don’t know what to expect but I think that’s a good thing.’
Ms Barham says that Ngurun was her first choice because she wanted to nominate someone who could benefit from the program. ‘I’ve see Ngurun involved in Youth Council. At a local level, Youth Council has been really important as it gives young people the opportunity to engage with democratic processes and be empowered by it and watching Ngurun in that process was really inspiring and when this came up, I thought he was the perfect person to put forward. Also, because of the role of the Arakwal in this area. There is a need for younger people to step up into those roles of leadership and Ngurun has already proven that he is capable and willing to do that.’
Ms Barham is just as excited for Ngurun as he is himself. ‘Each candidate has been asked to identify areas of interest and Ngurun has identified disability, which is great and coincidental, because it is one of my policy areas, so the opportunity for me to mentor him in an area of particular interest for me is fantastic.’
The program aims to promote youth-led advocacy, active community leadership and legal and parliamentary education.
In issue-based committees of ten, young people are empowered to create a Bill with the aim of solving a problem that they are passionate about. They research the problem, propose alternative solutions and negotiate amongst themselves the best possible solution. This Bill is then debated on the floor of the NSW Legislative Assembly as part of week-long residential camp.
As en education program, Youth Parliament is a realistic simulation of NSW Parliament – Youth Parliamentarians follow the same processes and procedure as their adult counterparts do, and also participate in Question Time, Matters of Public Importance and Private Members’ Business.
Youth Parliamentarians are advocates for young people across New South Wales on a range of issues – they do, however, have specific responsibility for their electorates.
Like many teenagers, Ngurungaeta Brown MP is also hoping for some time out from the hard work. ‘I am hoping to have fun, but also to learn about how the New South Wales parliament works. I hope that I can bring a new attitude to parliament.’