How can youth participation happen when communities don’t ‘like’ young people.

Youth participation in community is a long way off

I have just spent the last hour refuting stupidity on my local community Facebook page. A couple of young people tagged a guys fence and he was ranting about catching them and doing them physical violence. The comments grew from there to other members advocating eye for an eye, adults beating children and my personal favourite bemoaning ‘do-gooders’ who want to talk instead of punish. To say it infuriated me is an understatement. However, this also reminded me of how far we have to go as a society n validating young people as equal citizens and partners of youth participation.

The people on the Facebook group were clear about their dislike of young people in general. Comments such as ‘If your kids come home a bit worse looking next time don’t come crying to me!’ and ‘Give the lil smart ass punks a hiding’ and ‘that’s the reason why our kids are little a**holes because we “talk” to them! If I did that in the 80s or early 90s you can guarantee I would of copped something.’ were rife among people. They go on to call them ‘pricks’, ‘turds’ and ‘poor example’. Not once did they ask why the young people were there, nor how we could involve young people in the community. Just over and over again how delinquent young people in our community are. Not once about youth participation in society.

 youth participation

Good society is full youth participation

I personally know over a dozen local young people who regularly support the local community off their own back. Who could all pass as candidates for local citizens of the year. But in the eyes of many in communities across the world young people don’t count. The idea that young people have nothing productive to contribute to society is one of the most damaging ideologies of our time. As youth workers, we need to change this problem.

We need to stand up to people who want to taint the reputation of our young people. We need to help our young people to show their positive side to the public. We need to address the ageism in society so that our youth are allowed full rights of participation. Youth participation is the challenge of all youth workers and the requirement of a fully developed society.

What do you think?

Aaron Garth

Aaron Garth is the Executive Director of Ultimate Youth Worker. Aaron has worked as a youth worker in a number of settings including local church, street drug and alcohol outreach, family services, residential care, local government and youth homelessness since 2003. Aaron is a regular speaker at camps, retreats, & youth work training events and is a dedicated to seeing a more professional youth sector in Australia. Aaron is a graduate of RMIT University and an alumnus of their youth work program. He lives in Melbourne with his wife Jennifer & their daughters Hope, Zoe, Esther, Niamh and son Ezra.

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