Ipswich City Council has been supporting an Ipswich Youth Advisory Council (IYAC) for a number of years, which has successfully provided a powerful voice for young people in the community.
IYAC, which meets monthly, has delivered on many of its goals, including voicing issues young people care about; to develop, advocate and implement initiatives which affect and matter to then; and to build and enhance their capacity for civic leadership.
In 2017, council decided to embark on a two-tiered approach and split the age demographic into the formal IYAC – for 16-25 year olds – and a new “Youth Ambassadors” program for 12-15 year olds.
Council’s intent was to find something that might resonate more with the city’s youth.
General Manager of Community, Cultural and Economic Development Ben Pole said targeting youth aged 12-15 years for the ambassador program was aimed at allowing this cohort to benefit from team building, skills development and networking.
But following a public Expression of Interest process and promotion of the Youth Ambassador concept, that idea is now being abandoned.
“Over the past two and a half years since the 2017 council recommendations, the main IYAC program has developed into an important part of council’s Community Development portfolio and has proven to be a successful program,” he said.
“The Ipswich Youth Ambassadors program was intended to operate as a pathway program to IYAC for young people aged between 12-15 years of age. A public Expression of Interest process was undertaken between 1 April and 1 May 2019.
“During this process council arranged for the printing and distribution of 100 posters across the Ipswich CBD and surrounding suburbs, in addition to a digital billboard and an email distribution campaign specifically targeting Ipswich secondary schools, vocational schools, youth services and other community services.
“Additionally, the launch of the Expression of Interest process was raised at the monthly Ipswich & West Moreton Youth Interagency Meeting held at the Ipswich Youth Justice Service Centre on 16 April 2019.
“However, there was limited interest in the program and zero applications were received.”
Mr Pole said the limited interest indicated the “ambassador” type model was not compatible with the needs of young people aged 12-15 years in the Ipswich community.
“Duplication is another concern with young people already eligible to access and participate in other Ipswich City Council programs, such as the Discover Ipswich Ambassador Program (which allows young people aged 14 years and above to volunteer at the Ipswich Visitor Information Centre and/or activations at key events).
“Accordingly, it is proposed that council does not seek to proceed with a Youth Ambassador Program and, instead, consolidates its focus on the IYAC Program.”
Mr Pole said the current development of the Children, Youth and Families Policy and the current community engagement being undertaken as part of the development of this policy, may result in information for council concerning community needs and aspirations about, among other things, the 12-15 year cohort in the Ipswich community.
Interim Administrator Greg Chemello said youth ambassador programs were a very “traditional” approach that did not resonate with many young people today.
The first 12-month review of IYAC, which has 20 members with a wide variety of age, gender, cultural background and geography across Ipswich, was released at Tuesday’s Communities Committee.
It revealed a successful introduction to the two-year tenure with a “series of facilitated sessions, with brainstorming following by thematic grouping of key ideas”. The youth council aimed to improve youth mental health and build diversity and acceptance.
“One of the key indicators being tracked is around giving youth a voice, including the capacity for young people to identify and articulate key issues facing young people in Ipswich, and advocate for young people.”