Youth Advisory Committee member Bineet Gujral says the committee gives young people in the City of Whittlesea a platform to be heard. ​

The City of Whittlesea’s Youth Advisory Committee will receive funding and a refreshed terms of reference to help the body become more youth-oriented.

At last week’s council meeting, administrators voted in favour of upgrades to the Youth Advisory Committee, which was formed in January 2020, with the aims to increase youth participation in community decision-making, foster leadership and civic participation, and build life skills.

Council will also allocate $15,400 in the draft 2021-22 budget to support delivery of the committee; and engage with young people over the next 12 months to explore a Youth Advisory Council model.

The committee currently consists of 15 members, aged between 12 and 25, who meet regularly to discuss how to address youth needs in the municipality before presenting their recommendations to council ­– meetings that will increase in regularity from quarterly to monthly, as well as two formal meetings annually.

Council director of community wellbeing Kate McCaughey said the changes to the YAC’s terms would refocus its purpose.

“Some key chances in the terms of reference include meeting with council twice a year on a formal basis and to really touch base and provide opportunities for that dialogue between council and the YAC; refocusing the membership to just include young people, so they’ll be no council representatives on the committee itself; and establishing some additional supports internally for the group, and also additional participation and leadership support including the payment of an honorarium to people participating in the YAC,” she said.

Up to 13 members of the group will now receive $600 honorariums each annually, while the chair and co-chair will receive $800. They will also receive training workshops and professional development. 

The recommendations were presented alongside a report of the committee’s first year, which Ms McCaughey described as ‘extraordinary’ under the pandemic.

“The young people involved in the YAC found really creative ways to continue this work despite having a lot of their efforts having to go online,” Ms McCaughey said.

“Some real key achievements over the last 12 months include the Real Talk wellbeing for schools package, which really focused on mental health and wellbeing and helped to encourage conversations around mental health in schools, and with young people studying from home that was really, really important.”

She noted that YAC also had a significant input into the $4.6 million development of the Mill Park All Abilities play space, which opened in February.

Committee member Bineet Gujral, who joined in order to make sure that problems faced by young people were presented before council, said the committee had given young people a voice.

“The Youth Advisory Committee is very important to me as it provides an opportunity for young people to actively participate with local government planning and the associated decision-making processes,” he said.

“This meaningful engagement with the City of Whittlesea council provides young people with a platform to voice their opinions and concerns, something I am very passionate about.”

Administrator Peita Duncan, who formerly sat on the committee as council representative, said the modest honorariums and required training and professional development would take the group ‘to yet another level’, and praised the committee as a ‘bright and fantastic group of young people’.

“It’s a youth-centred model minimising adult involvement, so no administrators … I think they’ll be happy about that, and less staff involvement, and the opportunities obviously for members to meet with council throughout the year so we’re extending an offer of two briefings and updates to be determined to council, which I think is fantastic to give them that opportunity and face time with the administrators,” she said. 

“I just want to thank all of them personally again from myself … you are the next generation of the City of Whittlesea.”