The watchdogs of YMCA Youth Parliament

Claudia Jambor
Features Writer & Education Reporter
YMCA Youth Press Gallery

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Move over Dan Andrews, YMCA Youth Parliament Premier Fleetwood McGowan and eirs parliament of 120 youth are taking over Spring Street on June 29 to refute bills of interest to young Victorians.

While many have heard of Youth Parliament over its 29-year history, very few have heard of its eyes and ears –the YMCA Youth Parliament Press Gallery.

The Youth Press Gallery, consisting of 18 aspiring journalists, will takeover the Parliament of Victoria’s press gallery wing to provide full coverage of the week of Youth Parliament.

Implemented for the first time last year, the Youth Press Gallery aims to help amplify the bill topics debated in Youth Parliament across the state.

Former state Minister for Youth Affairs, Ryan Smith said the Youth Press Gallery offers young people a new avenue to engage with state affairs for those “who didn’t necessarily want to stand up and debate a particular bill”.

“It’s just put a new dimension on the whole program and provided opportunities for even more young people to be involved.”

Former Minister for Youth Affairs, Ryan Smith, addressing Youth Parliament in 2014. Photo - Finbar O'Mallon
Former Minister for Youth Affairs, Ryan Smith, addressing Youth Parliament in 2014.
Photo – Finbar O’Mallon

Kieran Ryan, director of last years press gallery program, said it was “a fantastic first year for a program” that is “just going to get better”.

And with the support of government funding for the next four years, Press Gallery director Nic Kimberly said the Youth Press Gallery is set to up the ante again for 2015.

“This year we have more and we can do more, I think that’s important and I think that it creates an even more exciting program.”

In the lead up to Youth Parliament, the Youth Press Gallery have written articles about different bill topics and pitched them to local media outlets.

A live blog, video footage and a daily newspaper for the youth parliamentarians are in the works to ensure an engaging and comprehensive coverage of the week’s events.

Some of Victoria’s most respected political reporters, including ABC’s State Political reporter Frances Bell and Nine reporter, Andrew Lund, have also visited the youth press gallery team to help them prepare for Spring Street.

As a former YMCA youth parliamentarian, participant Mihika Hegde is enjoying the “fast-paced environment” of the Youth Press Gallery, allowing her to gain new insights into the Youth Parliament program.

“Being in the press gallery really allows you to dig deeper and find out what motivates the youth parliament members.”

Working as a regional journalist, participant Ben Kimber identifies the program as a much-needed platform for youth to contribute and engage with state political discourse.

“There aren’t enough outlets and avenues for young people to first; express their views and opinions on political issues. Second; to actually be involved in the debate around issues and third; report, evaluate and communicate the issues back to their peers.”

It was over a year ago when former state Minister of Youth Affairs, Ryan Smith wanted to find “an opportunity to refresh” the successful YMCA Youth Parliament program to encourage more youth participation.

That opportunity presented itself at a breakfast with New Zealand’s Minister for Youth Affairs, Nikki Kaye, who mentioned their YMCA Youth Parliament had a supplementing Youth Press Gallery.

Mr Smith was eager to make the program a reality within Victoria’s YMCA Youth Parliament and has since collaborated with the YMCA to bring the Youth Press Gallery to fruition.

“I thought there was no reason why we shouldn’t do it here as part of the whole parliament experience for young people,” he said.

For last year’s participant Jessica Howard, reporting on Youth Parliament gave her a “huge boost of confidence” as an up and coming journalist.

Jessica encourages the participants to think outside the square to get published in local media.

“I think the one thing that people need to do is just pitch as much as they can, the only thing that’s going to happen is that its not going to get published and that’s really not the end of the world, the feeling of actually getting something published is just amazing”.

As the only press program for young people in Australia, Mr. Ryan foresees the YMCA Youth Parliament Press Gallery becoming “the premium program in Victoria” for endeavouring journalists to start a career in journalism.