In 2023, the WH&Y Commission embarked on an ambitious schedule of meetings with policy makers and decision makers across the country. Commissioners from different backgrounds, representing vastly different lived experiences, spoke directly to senior people in government and politics to share their perspectives on the healthcare system, and how it is supporting the health and wellbeing of young people in Australia.

“Policy makers gain a better understanding of the issues when they hear directly from the people affected,” says Ari Tsoulakos, WH&Y Commission Co-ordinator who leads the group’s advocacy work. “In our meetings, there were opportunities for politicians and political staff to ask questions of the Commissioners, which led to further discussions and a deeper understanding. It helped them consider perspectives and issues that they may not have considered before.”

Over the course of the year, Commissioners spoke with representatives from the Department of Health and the Office for Youth in Victoria; the NSW Department of Education; and SA Health. On a federal level, they met with the Office for Youth, the Department of Health and Aged Care, and the National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA). 

They also spoke directly with the NSW Minister for Youth, Rose Jackson MLC; Victoria’s Shadow Minister for Youth, Sam Groth MP; and Stephen Bates, MP, the Greens’ Shadow Minister for Youth federally.

“Most stakeholders agreed that addressing youth health was important,” observes Ari. “However, for many government departments, the primary focus is on mental health. This is a significant concern, given that mental health is only one aspect of overall health. It is crucial to consider and account for other factors that affect youth health.”

The Commissioners also noted that the social determinants of youth health and wellbeing often fall outside the health portfolio, broaching areas including education, climate change, housing and homelessness, justice and more. 

“If governments are to create change in this space, they will need to view health more holistically and promote interdepartmental collaboration to address these issues,” says Ari.

It’s a message the WH&Y Commission will carry through into future meetings as their influence continues to grow in 2024.