Kate Steinbeck [00:00:03] Hello, everyone. I'm Kate Steinbeck, welcoming you to our webinar for the month of March. On behalf of the Wellbeing Health & Youth NHMRC Center of Research Excellence, I acknowledge our funders, the NHMRC, and all the universities that are involved in our research program.
Kate Steinbeck [00:00:31] I also want to acknowledge the traditional owners of the country throughout Australia, wherever those who are listening to us are, and recognise their continuing connection to land, waters and culture. And we pay our respects to their elders past, present and emerging.
Kate Steinbeck [00:00:52] I also want to remind everyone who listens that you are part of a community of practice that is a place where researchers, clinicians, policy makers and young people can come together, particularly to look at the important topics that we need to be researching as a Centre of Research Excellence. There will be more on that coming out on our website this year and there will be invitations to become part of our community more formally.
Kate Steinbeck [00:01:35] I remind you that your microphone will be muted, and your video switched off, so you don't have to worry about that. If you have something that you want to say or if you want to ask a question, all of that goes in the chat panel. And I can see that people are starting to come on and say, hi. You can, of course, say hi and say where you're from and say hello to people who might have been on previous webinars, but we'll answer questions at the end of the webinar. That seems to work the best. And you type your comment in at the bottom of the chat panel.
Kate Steinbeck [00:02:24] [Slide 1 About Kate Munro] And so without further ado, I would love to introduce Kate Munro, who's with us today Kate’s speaking as the CEO of Youth Action, which many of you I'm sure will have heard of, which is the peak body that represents young people and importantly the services that support them in New South Wales. Kate has a very long CV, about 30 years' experience in the youth and community service sector, and is really keen on, which is what we are keen on, youth participation, child and human rights, youth development, and advocacy for young people who are often missed out from our point of view in the healthcare space. And that's also in many other parts of the community that young people need to be part of the action, and I think Youth Action is named very appropriately. So, Kate, welcome.
Kate Munro [00:03:43] I too would like to acknowledge the traditional owners of all the lands that we're meeting on today. I'm on the land of the Gadigal people in Sydney in Woolloomooloo where our offices are, and I'd like to pay my respects to elders past, present and emerging, and extend that respect to all First Nations people on this call. And similar to Kate's message, I'd like to recognise over 60,000 years of connection to land, language, water and culture on this land that was never ceded and always was and always will be Aboriginal land.
Kate Munro [00:04:15] So thank you so much for having me. This is another of those weird experiences where I have no idea who’s on the call, so if it's people that I know, it's awesome, I'm really excited that maybe I know you, if I don’t know you, I'm really excited to meet you. As Kate said, I'll go through this presentation and take questions at the end.
Kate Munro [00:04:39] I have a lot of learning in this space. You're all experts in this space as well, so I'm not putting myself up as having any kind of privileged knowledge. I'm really interested to hear about how you're doing things in your world. If this is relevant to you, that's fantastic. If it's learning or thoughts or ideas or great things that you're doing, love you to share them in the chat because everytime I do these things, I learn more stuff.
Kate Munro [00:05:08] [Slide 2 About Youth Action] First off, for those who don't know, and I apologise for those who do know this, but I just thought I'd give you a little bit of an overview about Youth Action. We're the peak body that represents young people and the services that support them in New South Wales. Our vision is of a society where all New South Wales young people are supported, engaged, valued and have their rights realised. Our work sits in that kind of nexus of capacity building for young people and youth workers and youth services, and then also that advocacy space, advocating for systemic change and for policy change on issues that affect those groups. And then as a peak, just to give you a bit of an idea, we have about 150 organisational members, we also have individual memberships, for both young people and for workers working with young people. If you like what we do, love you to have a look on our website and sign up as a member or even just sign up for our newsletter, because that's where we offer a lot of opportunities in that space, so would love you to engage more with the work that we do.
Kate Munro ‘[00:06:11] Sector development. We do a lot of professional development work, professional training for the sector on a whole range of different things. But I guess predominately our core business is participation, youth voice sector, voice policy and advocacy. That's where a lot of our training is. But we also partner with other training providers to do different things at different times. We've done things around youth development. We've offered training around cultural competency training or cultural safety training. Throughout the year, there's a range of different things that happen. And then obviously, voice is hugely important for us, in particular the voice of young people and policy development. I guess that's our core area of work.
Kate Munro [00:06:59] [Slide 3 Principles that underpin our work] And I just wanted to put this slide up as well. There are some very core principles to the work that we do. We always give a particular focus to those socially excluded groups, so regional young people, First Nations young people, LGBTQ+, young people with a disability, those from culturally and linguistically diverse communities, including migrants and refugees, and young people doing it tough. We want to make sure that whilst we represent the full diversity of young people in New South Wales, we're very aware that there are particular groups whose voices can be drowned out by some of those more mainstream voices. We give a particular focus to those groups.
Kate Munro [00:07:41] We are a rights-based organisation. As I say in our vision, it is about supporting young people to have their rights realised, that we use a rights-based lens to focus on programs, policy and advocacy, and obviously that's in relation to those meaningful outcomes. It's evidence based, and we make sure that it's strengths-based and informed by data evidence.
Kate Munro [00:08:05] Another thing that is really important for us, and we are very intentional about this statement, again as a peak in the sector, is that we will be, we strive to be, we are always learning to be an ally to self-determination of First Nations communities. We think it's incredibly important that work with First Nations people is led by Aboriginal owned and controlled organisations, that First Nations young people have access to that support from people =-within their own communities. We believe that young people possess all of the knowledge and skills and thoughts that they need to come up with solutions to address the issues that they face. So that lived expertise is a hugely important part of the principle that underpins the work that we do.
Kate Munro[00:08:57] Again, the expertise of the sector. Everything we do is guided by the voice of young people and the sector to be a trustworthy partner and a collaborator. A lot of our work is done collaboratively. We're a small organisation, we have about nine staff at the moment, so we're always looking at opportunities to partner with people to do that kind of policy participation, advocacy work.
Kate Munro [00:09:25] [Slide 4 Strategic Plan] We just launched our strategic plan last year. Again, because I'm talking to you about young people and that co-design and policy space, I just wanted to give you a bit of a sense about what are the policy priorities that we have over the next three years.
Kate Munro [00:09:44] A key initiative, which runs across the life of our plan, is about Youth Justice Throughcare, and this came out of our consultations with young people and the sector about the issue of Throughcare. We've got a very broad definition of Throughcare - what are the supports and services that young people in contact with the law and justice systems need prior to coming into that contact to keep them out of the law and justice systems? If they're in those systems, what kind of support and services do they need whilst they navigate that system, including in custody. And then what happens to reintegrate young people back into the community. And the reason we chose that initiative, which came out of our consultations for our plan, is that we did a lot of consultations with the sector, with young people, with our key stakeholders, with government, to come up with these priorities. But what came up with the Throughcare one is much of that work that happens in that Throughcare space, happens in the youth sector, it happens in the local youth services, it happens on the ground in community, and as the peak that represents young people and the services that support them, we thought that was a really important area for us to be doing work in because it gives us an opportunity to shine a spotlight on the really vital work that's happening in those areas.
Kate Munro [00:11:05] And then we have three other key policy advocacy areas. One of these is health and wellbeing, one is education and learning, and one is jobs and income. So those three areas are related. We have four other areas where we are not going to lead, but we will partner with people on, because again what we heard from young people is that these are issues that are really important to them. One of the secondary areas is civics engagement. So that's the whole range of things about how do young people get actively involved in their communities, democracy, how are young people involved in democratic processes?
Kate Munro [00:11:46] The second one is sector issues and very specifically youth sector issues around funding initiatives. We're not an industry body, so we don't represent the sector, we represent the sector in their capacity to support young people. But you know, as funding programs change, as particular issues come up with a sector that challenges how they do their work with young people, we'll take those up.
Kate Munro[00:12:07] Budgets and elections. Both young people and the sector are really interested in what happens in how investment gets allocated through budgets, what do election processes look like? We'll start to do a bit more for the federal election, but definitely for the state election. We'll have a number of priorities that will be put into place for those different parties that are running in the election.
Kate Munro [00:12:36] And then the last one, it's a bit of a catch all, but it's really important for young people, we've named it intergenerational issues. It’s that idea about things like climate change, housing affordability, cost of living, tax reform, all of those things that impact multiple generations, but young people are disproportionately impacted by or negatively disproportionately impacted. So we want to make sure we recognise those things as well.
Kate Munro [00:13:12] [Slide 5 Policy & co-design with young people] I want to recognise without knowing who's on the call, except I've seen a few people whose names I recognise who do this stuff way better than I do, so I want to give a shout out to the people who are already doing amazing work in this space.
Kate Munro [00:13:33] I'm just going to talk about what we do at Youth Action and the learnings we have, and then I'm hoping that's helpful for people who may be on a bit of a journey in this space or alternatively, it'll generate some questions at the end. But obviously for us, young people's voices are incredibly important to include. Why? Because it's really obvious. Policy is better when the people you want to get to are included. You already know this, it’s really easy, people feel like bringing young people into this space, particularly into a policy space, and people feel anxious about that, that young people aren't interested. What do we do? It's going to be really hard. It's really not, and young people are super interested. Just do it, just get into it. Obviously, policy is better when it's designed by the people who are going to be most impacted by it. It's young people's right. And we're really strong on that, we spend a lot of time talking to young people about that, it's actually their right to be included. It's a non-negotiable for us. It's not a wouldn't that be nice to do that, but the last thing we do in the process is just find out what young people think. It's the place that we start from.
Kate Munro [00:14:52] And then the other point, as I mentioned before, young people are experts in their own lives, they’ve got all of these answers and they've got all these solutions based on that expertise. And so it's crucial that we do that stuff.
Kate Munro [00:15:05] [Slide 6 Strengths-based advocacy & policy] I wanted to talk a little bit about strengths-based advocacy, and we're very intentional about naming the work that we do as strengths-based advocacy. And the reason we decided to do that is it became really clear during the pandemic, that young people were talking to us about how they just felt like they were being spoken about all the time, being spoken about as objects of policy, they were being spoken about in the media. Young people are bearing the brunt, young people are the most impacted, young people are having all these things going on, the disproportionate impacts about COVID, which is really true. But what that meant is young people felt really overwhelmed. They felt really powerless, and they felt really left out of those discussions. And I'm sure anyone who works in a mental health space with young people knows that any young people that you spoke to during those times just felt like they had no sense of agency in what was happening. They had no control over what was happening. School was unpredictable, work was unpredictable, home life was unpredictable. There was just this complete kind of lack of control. And then they were being spoken about. And I think that is understandable in that time of immediate emergency response. But we think it's really important now and obviously since the beginning of the pandemic, to try and shift the way we speak about young people so that we do start to speak about them with a sense of agency.
Kate Munro [00:16:45] Again, anyone who works in the human services sector, we bleed strengths-based approaches to working with young people. We know it inside out. But strangely, when we came to policy and when we came to advocacy, we were still using that really deficit-focused language. Young people are problems that need to be fixed, young people are causing a problem. Somebody external needs to come in and fix that problem for those young people. And I think that's, you know, as we say, it doesn't surprise me that mental health has been so exacerbated by the experience for young people. Obviously, there are a range of individual circumstances, but I actually think systemically, again, we took away young people's sense of control and having a sense of agency in this case. So we're very intentional about that. For us, strengths-based advocacy is about bringing people into those discussions and using their lived expertise to co-design solutions to those really complex challenges. And it's a partnership process. We bring a knowledge and an understanding of systems and systemic change, another group will bring lived expertise to solutions and possibilities.
Kate Munro [00:17:58] [Slide 7 Powerful Questions] I also thought, and I hope people will kind of humour me here, let me just take you on a bit of a journey, and I'm really sorry if this is stuff that you already know. But one of the things I thought that might be useful in this talk is actually to talk a bit about the power of questions because for us this is where the process starts and why the questions are really important and is how we create that sense of agency. Anyone who works in counseling or individual therapies already knows what an important role questions play. Questions are powerful, questions create insight, and insight creates change. And in the same way that it creates change at an individual level, it creates change at a systemic level for people.
Kate Munro [00:18:44] I'd like to talk a little bit about the kinds of questions that we use when we want to draw out those experiences from young people about what's happening in their lives and the changes that they want to see, and then how that builds that sense of agency for young people. And I'm hoping that this answers some of those questions for people about is it hard? How do I do it? Where do I start with young people? Again anyone who works in an individual space is probably already asking.
Kate Munro [00:19:17] Some of the stuff that I've chosen to speak to you about today is from an Appreciating Inquiry approach. Again, I think there's probably people on this call who know about Appreciative Inquiry. It's one of those strengths-based approaches, there are many other different ways, there are many other different approaches that do pretty much the same thing.
Kate Munro [00:19:49] Again, not telling you anything that you don't already know, but the language is incredibly important. And adults talking to young people it's often easy to forget that again. I spoke about it before, it's really easy to fall into talking about young people as objects. And when you talk about them as objects, they no longer have that sense of empowerment.
Kate Munro [00:20:16] [Slide 8 Problem vs Challenge] Another one around language, again, that idea about problems versus challenges. It's really simple shifts, and I think you're probably already doing it, but it is about how do we collaborate with young people, how do we create a space where young people want to work on something where they're not the problem, where we're working together to tackle and challenge. Again, there is just that sense of energy, a sense of change in that. It's not about it's your problem and somehow I'm going to come up with some great idea about how I should fix it.
Kate Munro [00:20:50] [Slide 9 Simple Statements] I think super simple statements are really important for us in our policy work because we want our policy to be solutions focused. We want young people to be on that journey of co-creating policy recommendations, co-creating policy, co-creating solutions with us. That idea of questions create momentum, and if anyone's heard that statement around energy follows attention. So the questions we ask drive us towards the outcomes that we want. And I really like that sort of third box there, about the more positive our question, the more it will create the possible. And we work very much in a space with young people about the possible, what is possible? What is a good policy solution? What are we drawing upon that already exists that can be replicated, that's already there in the community? And I think that for us when we do our consultations with young people and when we involve young people in those processes, we work really hard to make sure it's not just an extractive process, it's not just us asking young people for input, it's also about helping young people build insight. And for anyone who's worked in an individual change space or even a systemic change space, that idea about having your voice heard should be empowering and never underestimating that transformative power of having your voice heard. Not only do we gain something out of this experience, and we get better policy, and we work on that with young people, but young people are different as a result of that experience. Young people have a different insight. Young people have a different sense of agency, have a different sense of what change they can make, and they can go on and do that in their own spaces. So it kind of lives on outside their interaction with us.
Kate Munro [00:22:48] [Slide 10 Deficit and risk thinking] Again, this slide is more just looking at where we sit in that deficit space. Particularly when you think about this in the context of the pandemic, so much of our policy and our practice has gone back into that kind of doing for people because it was an emergency, people needed to have things, they needed services, we needed policies, we needed lots of things created fast and a lot of things got done for us. But I think that the danger is that we probably needed to do it about 12 months ago. It's happening, but it's taking control back again.
Kate Munro [00:23:22] [Slide ß11 Appreciative Inquiry] Appreciative Inquiry sits in that space of strengths-based, so not looking at what's wrong, but looking at what's strong, how do we build more of what's strong, not looking at problems, but looking at possibilities. What are the possibilities created once we start looking at what's strong and what's working, or we start looking at what we want to see more of, which kind of is in that space of what's not working, then what are the possibilities? What are the things that we can move towards?
Kate Munro [00:23:48] [Slide 12 Problem Solving Approach vs Appreciative Inquiry Approach] This is a quick Appreciative Inquiry 101. It's that shift from problem solving. Appreciative Inquiry is a collaborative process, it's looking at how we work together to find those things that exist within our communities. And I would say that young people, and again I don’t think I'm telling you anything that you don't know, but young people are one of the biggest untapped resources that we have in our communities. There's so much that young people have to offer. There's so much that young people are passionate about and excited about, or just have their own lived expertise that they want to contribute to make things different for young people in circumstances like theirs. I think once we start to see young people as those assets and those resources, then everything you do changes, whether you're in systems change space, or if you’re in a policy space, once you start to look at young people differently, then the whole way that you look at what you do in your work will change as well.
Kate Munro [00:25:08] [Slide 13 Origins of Appreciative Inquiry] Appreciative Inquiry sits in those strengths-based approaches. It started in the '80s, but it was very much that aspect of generative change. Looking at the best of what is, which helps realise the ideal of what might be, with the consent of what should be, for the reality of what can be. There's a kind of dynamic energy about it. I guess it doesn't matter, you know, even in the middle of a pandemic, we did work with young people around voice, voices in policy, and we used this for my questioning. It's empowering, even in the worst of circumstances and, again, really mirrors those individual approaches with people. But even when people are in a trauma space, even when things are really tough, again never underestimate the transformative power of having your voice heard. This is the bit that makes people feel like at least there is a role that they have to play in making things different. They’re important, they're tough and challenging. experiences and incredibly important to creating solutions about how things can be different.
Kate Munro [00:26:26] [Slide 14 Principle of Simultaneity: Appreciative Inquiry Questions] I want to go back to that thing about in a policy space, and we don't think about this as much in that space where you're collecting questions, whether it's research, whether it's forums, whether it's surveys, whatever space you work in together, that idea about making sure it's not just extracting. What are we wanting young people to think about differently? I will talk about some of the questions that we ask and they're pretty simple. But even when we go to more complex questions, we spend a lot of time testing them to see If I'm asking that question, what is the person who's answering that going to feel like, will that get me the answer I want that gives me that sense of what's possible, and it's not as easy as it sounds. I think also what's the insight that they take away from that?
Kate Munro [00:27:34] I spend a little bit of my time in the health space, not as much as I have in previous jobs, but I would hazard a guess that in the health space young people are talked about all the time as problems to be fixed. I think that I would hazard that the questions that happen in a health space that young people get asked are often questions that make them feel overwhelmed and make them feel hopeless and make them feel powerless. It's not intentional, but having something wrong with you, having a condition, having a label, all of those things I think young people feel that incredibly strongly. There's a lot of space to look at, how do we shift those questions that actually make young people feel like they are part of my learning as a professional, so every time I sit in front of a group of young people, I learn something different. That lived expertise, and what is the value of that? And then also how does that lived expertise then inform the work that we do? I think that the more socially excluded those young people are that you talk to, the more powerful this experience is for them because they're so used to feeling like their experiences aren't validated, that their experiences are problems that they created. So to actually use this questioning process with them, it's incredibly transformative, give it a go, definitely.
Kate Munro [00:29:04] [Slide 15 Designing Questions] And the last one I wanted to talk about in terms of questions is about the flow, it is really important. It's about taking people on a journey. There's that initial question that's a reflective question and for us it's usually a question that's as simple as what's working for young people in whatever the topic is. If we're doing something about health service, we'd ask, what's working well for young people in health services? And then our second question would be what's not working so well? And it's really important we give very broad questions, there's no preconceived agenda, we say tell us about mental health issues, tell us about medical issues, it's not that we don't preconceive those categories. The what's working well is really important. It's really important you do it first, again in a counselling space it’s the same thing. You want to find out what are the things that you can draw on? What are those strengths? What are those things that are working that can be drawn out, replicated? The what's not working so well is a really important question to validate that there are problems that this process is not rose-tinted glasses, it is about giving people space to name the things that are tough. Every time I wonder if the process will fail me, it doesn't, but I always have a moment where I worry. But if you ask them in that order, then the third question is that future-focused question. That question that's about what would you like to see more of? What's the change that you want to see happen? What are the priorities that you want on this? If it's a policy question, we will often ask what are the priorities that you think policy makers or decision makers should make in relation to young people? We might ask what are the supports and services that young people need? But if you ask those first two questions in that order, the flow takes them into that space of possibilities, and you get these amazingly rich answers that are the solution.
Kate Munro [00:31:25] It's actually really easy and simple. There's a real skill in being quiet. There's a real skill in not leading young people, again same as a counseling space. It's not about me telling young people what I think, and it's very easy to fall down that rabbit hole telling young people or pushing them towards the answers that I want.. But when you get it right, that flow is beautiful and you walk out of that group with young people and think that was amazing, people should do more of this. And it's crazy because I only asked three really simple questions and I just listened. The simplicity of it is its beauty. The feeling that young people have is, I got to be in a space where I could just speak my truth and my reality and share my ideas about what I thought was really important. We can do these with anywhere between two or three young people. I was in Moree last week and it was a group of 200 young people that we did this with, and it works in large or small groups. And then what you pull out of that for us in a policy space is we pull together a whole lot of themes about what young people told us. Again, no different to what others of you that are working in this area are doing. But we pull that together and will usually pull together some recommendations as well.
Kate Munro [00:32:49] So it's a start. It's really interesting when I have conversations with government or with people who've asked us to come and do this work for them with their young people. They find it too simple and they're like, no, but we really need to know this, so can you ask them about this? Can you do more on that? And I often say, just trust me, that will come out, if that's an issue for young people that will come out. And it always does. Invariably, if someone tells me that there's a problem going on in a particular area, if I ask those three questions young people will talk about that, but they'll talk about it in their own way, in their own time, and it will give you the opportunity to kind of go, well, what are the most important things for young people? This is not the in-depth bit, this is just the beginning of thinking about, what are the themes? What are the things that we want to look into more, what would be the things that we might want to co-design with young people? What actions might you co-design from this process, but this is such a beautiful, simple starting place.
Kate Munro [00:33:52] [Slide 16 Co-designing with young people] These are some of the lovely young people that work on our projects. I said this earlier, it's their right to be included, it leads to better policy and projects and policy outcomes, and it's way easier than what you think.
Kate Munro [00:34:09] Because this is a health conversation, I'll tell you a little bit about our Ask the Health Project and what happens in that program with young people. And then I'll also give you just a little bit of background on a couple of the other youth participation pieces that we're doing at the moment around policy and advocacy, and how we're involving young people in that.
Kate Munro [00:34:37] [Slide 17 Ask the Health Project] Ask the Health Project is a project that we have funded through Ministry of Health, thank you very much, shout out to anyone from Ministry of Health on this call. And it's based on research, which again many of you were probably part of. The research from Alliance of New South Wales University is called the Access Study and it's about improving young people's literacy around health services. I would actually say that it's the health services that need to improve their literacy about young people, about humans. It's talking about deficit language and the way we frame things. I think young people's health literacy isn't the problem. I use this example. My mum is a professor of microbiology. She supported my stepfather through some really serious health issues that he had in the health system. My mum couldn't get the services that she needed; it was a really tough process. So if my mum, who is a professor of microbiology struggles, how on earth could I ever hope to teach young people about health literacy? I am very aware that what we’re doing with the language around it could probably be better, but it’s a fantastic process. I don't know how people ever manage this. So we have a subversive angle about how we teach the health system to be more young person literate. What the Ask the Health Project looked at was developing a website, but a website is only a tool, it's only as good as people's capacity to use it. It doesn't increase people's health literacy, we co-designed this with young people, we've had young people working on the content throughout. We've had a number of really amazing health professionals working on the content. It's as good as we can get, I think, in terms of accessibility from an understanding and a visual perspective.
Kate Munro [00:37:03] [Slide 18 Ask for Health] The other part of that project, which I think is really important and sits in this youth policy advocacy space, is our Health Literacy Advisory Council. We had 12 young people from across New South Wales - we put out an EOI and we got 75 responses to that EOI, so anyone who thinks young people aren't interested in health, I beg to differ. That group did 12 months of work for us, working on all of the different elements of that project. Project planning, we went through the theory of change with them, we taught them evaluation, we contracted a really great person who works in a space around measurements and got her to do some training with that group. They did a whole lot of work around the communications and how we want to communicate the content of this, and then we had a peer program, which we're just moving into that phase now, and the Health Literacy Advisory Council was part of it. We're going to do peer-to-peer content training, so they develop the content for it. We're going to do training with the sector, with youth workers and people again to help them navigate that space and to kind of capacity build them. And then also peer-to-peer training with young people.
Kate Munro [00:38:32] It's that co-design process from woe to go, about how do you bring young people into a project. It wasn't quite from the beginning, but certainly from when I started at Youth Action, so we'll have two years of that really embedded participation framework. I think the other piece to remember about co design, and for anyone who does it you know this, it takes longer, it takes resourcing. So we had a coordinator on that project, but a lot of her time was spent supporting the HALAC (Health Literacy Advisory Council). It takes resourcing and it takes time. We probably could have knocked up most of that stuff in maybe three to four months if we were just doing it as workers, but we stretched it for 12 months to really bring young people on that journey of learning. What we got out of 12 months is exponentially better than what we would have got if we just did it ourselves in four months. So it's a really good reminder.
Kate Munro [00:39:28] [Slide 19 Wrapping up] That's the health part. I've got five minutes, so I would like to just talk a little about two other big parts of our policy and advocacy work that relate to our strategic plan that we're also on that journey with young people around voice. We contracted the Australia Institute to do a piece of research with us about youth employment and young people's experience of youth employment. Rather than just contracting them and then they do this amazing policy piece with all of their fantastic policy skills and their amazing economists, people who have all of these numbers and graphs. We also did a series of consultations with young people about their lived experience of employment. We gave those to the Australian Council to put into their report. They came up with a series of recommendations. We then brought together a roundtable of about 20 young people to come to that roundtable and we tested those recommendations with young people. Do these recommendations sound right to you? What would make them workable? Do they apply to the diversity of young people? As I said at the beginning, those socially excluded groups are really important to us, we want to make sure that we don't just get the usual suspects in the work that we do, which again means putting in extra support. Some of those young people, it's the very first-time doing things like these. Other of those young people on those committees had more experience in that space than I do.
Kate Munro [00:41:27] We tested those recommendations with young people. We then also brought together another roundtable with government representatives, sector representatives and a group of representatives of young people from that roundtable. Tested it again to make sure that we weren't missing anything that was happening in a government or sector space, but also gave young people the opportunity to speak to their reality and their lived expertise. We will be launching that report, fingers crossed it will be in the next couple of weeks, we're hoping to do it maybe by Youth Week, we'll be sharing that report. I'd love you to have a look at it. I'm really interested in people's feedback when they see it, just how that voice sits in that.
Kate Munro [00:42:16] And then we have another piece of policy and advocacy that we're doing about our Throughcare. And for that one, it's a little bit different. We're really mindful that for young people in the law and justice system, it's a really complex, really difficult, overwhelming system. It's a complex system for workers, so for young people, even more so. We're looking at how we bring young people's voices in a way that's safe. And I've done it in the past as well, and it's been my learning through that. There's a lot of people who bring young people in, they’ve got their advocate group or a young ambassador or people they lived with. And particularly for people in mental health. Young people who really have been part of that system to the point perhaps where they're almost in that kind of institutionalised space, the power of putting them in front of a decision maker it creates such a sense of expectation. You know, there's that moment of 'oh I feel really validated, I got to speak to the minister, I got to speak to a really high-level bureaucrat, they listened to me, they nodded, they lapped up everything I was saying' and then nothing changes. And we've all been part of that, we’ve all been part of those kinds of meetings. So I'm really mindful about not taking young people into that space because I just think it's heartbreaking. And I know young people who've sat on the other side of that, just, you know, I've spoken to so many ministers and nothing changes.
Kate Munro [00:43:57] What we're doing for that project is we've got some funding to work with the Australian Theatre for Young People, and we're going to do a series of consultations and then look at developing a script from those consultations. And then doing some further workshops with young people who have that lived expertise, to develop a script that is a series of vignettes of their collective stories, it's no single person's story, we're not asking any young person to get up and share their story. It will be a series of vignettes as a collective story, and then from that story that script will be performed by a group of actors. Kind of almost like that thing where people say, oh, I saw that movie or that show and that was my life. And there's this actor playing your best self and they’re doing a much better job of being you than you would if you were up on the stage. We don't have the funding to tour that production, but we're going to get it up to the stage where we could do a reading with professional actors and then we're hoping to then find some further funding to hopefully tour it, but at the very least be able to get that in front of some influential people with that intention of drawing attention to the work that needs to be done in terms of supporting young people in that law and justice space. And I have no doubt that when we put their collective stories together, the answers will just be so clear. I mean, it's always about early intervention, it's always about a more supporting community. It's always about consistent support. It's just a different way of bringing young people's voices into a policy stance.
Kate Munro [00:45:33] I think I am one minute over my time, and I have some time for questions. I think I can see a question which Kate posted, which said, "You've been to Moree recently. Are there any light bulb moments that you could share or perhaps other examples of light bulb moments?" Look, I think that the biggest light bulb moment for me and it's always my light bulb moment, but it was really clear in an area like Moree and there are many areas in New South Wales that are like that, where there's a lot of services and there's a lot of focus that government's got its finger in and multiple government agencies, multiple NGOs, is that young people's voice area missing. People are not including young people's voices. People are in there designing things for young people and young people are sitting back as passive recipients of programs and activities and services. Going, I kind of like that, that’s alright, don’t like that, that's not so good. They don't feel like they have any more say in actually, if I don't like it, how do I change it? Or if I do like it and want to see more about it, how do I make that happen? It's really clear to me that young people's voices need to be included. And it's not funded. I mean, that's the difficult thing, right? There are small grants around, so the Youth Opportunities Program that the Department of Communities and Justice offers is very specifically about youth participation. There are grants that give a nod to including young people's voices, but it's not given the resourcing that it needs. For HALAC we pay all of our young people on HALAC, I think young people involved in any of these processes, if they're doing work for you, they should be paid. If they're doing work for another organisation, they should be paid. I think in that space, how do we resource young people's voices? And then two, how do we make sure we're including them?
Kate Steinbeck [00:48:07] I should say that while we're answering questions, there've been so many appreciative comments about Appreciative Inquiry. And it's lovely to actually see a framework of what many of us use, but to somehow make it simpler and easier for us to achieve what we really want to achieve for young people. And there is a comment from Pamela about the payment. "I mean, I couldn't agree more about the lack of understanding about payment for young people who take part. And it certainly came across when I was looking at some university teaching, and the university says there's absolutely nothing that we can put in to assist young people to come and spend maybe half a day doing a teaching program. We have a lot of work to do to just make people think that it's not good enough to invite them, an invitation is not remuneration."
Kate Munro [00:49:14] When I get invited to things I do it on work time and I am paid to do that. When we do a submission, or if we're doing just a broad consultation about improving some kind of policy for young people, we don't pay for those and the rationale for that is it's their democratic right to have their voice included in policy decisions. And the last thing we would want to do is to only be able to listen to a certain number of young people because funding prevented us from being able to pay more. And I also don't want to set up a false idea that young people's voices are only valuable if someone is paying you for it. But any time it's a consultation process for someone, so if someone wants us to support young people to comment on their strategy, if someone wants us to support young people commenting on their service delivery, that should be a paid position. If a young person is on a steering committee, a working group, an advisory group that's doing ongoing work for an organisation, then they should be paid for that.
Kate Steinbeck [00:50:26] Certainly, because so often they've given up maybe paid work to come and do this
Kate Munro [00:50:33] The other thing that is really important that when you're working with those groups of young people who don't have those experiences of employment, there's a real identity piece in being able to say, I'm a WH&Y Commissioner, I'm a Youth Action Steering Committee member. Many of those young people don't have that in their immediate peer circle. So I always love that thing when young people basically change their status to say, you know, I'm a HALAC member, and for me that gives them an identity as somebody who's working. And that's really important. And it's a nice transition space for young people, and some of those young people will go on and be prime minister one day, but there's others who it's been such a journey for them just to get to a point where they feel valued. Being able to say I'm valued as an expert is hugely transformative for them, more than the money for them.
Kate Steinbeck [00:51:35] And starting to create their CV.
Kate Munro [00:51:38] Absolutely massively important.
Kate Steinbeck [00:51:40] I'm going to go to the next question, which is from Dan. "Great presentation. I'm wondering how we can tackle social determinants of health through policy when government departments often work as separate entities. Have you any thoughts or advice on how we could do this while ensuring young people remain at the centre of policy development?"
Kate Munro [00:52:07] Don’t know if this is going to be a good answer for you or not Dan. I think that for me, I try to keep it simple with what are young people saying and then take what young people are saying back to government. So I don't start with what government wants, I don't start with what government thinks, I don't start with that kind of complex baggage that comes within that space. I try to start in that space of possibility about what are the young people thinking about health. One of the other bits I didn't mention was part of our process with that health literacy group is we actually found we were getting lots of comments and content about health policy. So we're actually putting together a health policy recommendations document and we'll do the same process, we'll have a roundtable and test that with government. I think that you start with young people and then kind of put government on the back foot, put them in the space where they have to kind of respond to young people rather than young people responding to government, I think it's that bit. The minute you have young people responding to government, you notice that, you know, the government reps will just nod, thanks very much, yes, we’ve listened to you now, and they go away. Whereas I actually think if it's like, no, you have to talk to young people about what you're doing and you have to justify, and you have to be accountable to them, it forces them into that power of difference, it takes them back into a kind of a more even playing field. Not sure if that's helpful Dan.
Kate Steinbeck [00:53:38] I think it will be because it is actually turning things back to front or tipping them upside down.
Kate Munro [00:53:46] And it always simplifies things when you talk to young people, it's always a simpler way to talk to the community, it's always simpler when you talk to humans. It's that language, the government language is the thing, it's meant to confuse us, it's meant to be complicated. Government is really good at speaking to itself, and they understand it, but nobody else does. It's really difficult. So I just go back to what are the real people, the real humans in this space, talking about this. How do I get that into that other arena?
Kate Steinbeck [00:54:14] Dan's just answered. It's been helpful, so there you go. Another question if I may, and it's from Helen. "Amazing presentation. Thank you. Is there a platform for policymakers to seek youth input through Youth Action?"
Kate Munro [00:54:38] Yes, just email me. We're a small team, we do some fee-for-service work, sometimes government will come to us and ask for us to do a particular piece of work and we'll do that as a fee-for-service piece, a capacity building piece, it can be non-government as well. Sometimes we build people's capacity to do this themselves, if they're going to do it in a continuing way or otherwise, particularly with government, we try to suggest, don't do it, it's not your area of expertise, we'll do it and then we'll feed it back to you and provide you with a report and those recommendations. But it's literally just emailing us and if we can't help, we can usually think of someone who can.
Kate Steinbeck [00:55:15] Very useful. I've got another question here, which I'm just going to mark as a question, so you get recorded and it's from Mai. "You mentioned it is easy to engage young people. What advice would you give to researchers and health professionals who have never engaged young people in their work?"
Kate Munro [00:55:42] I would advise you to partner with someone who is an expert in engaging young people. Whilst everyone was young once, have young people in their lives, may still be a young person, but is now working as a professional, maybe just outside the age of being a young person, it's a very different skill set to engage young people broadly. It's not just my lived experience as a young person or parent, it’s not relevant in this context. I'm sure Mai you get a lot of this. I know you're an expert in this space, and you could probably answer this question better than I can. Lots of people tell you, oh, you know, yeah, I'm a parent. I know stuff about young people, I really think they need… and immediately people fall into that kind of personal space. If it's not what you do, that's fine, come to an organisation like us or the WH&Y or any really good organisation that does youth participation work and have a conversation about partnering with them. And we, they, whoever, will do that engagement piece, or capacity building, training you how to do that well. Partner with a youth organisation, there's loads of really great youth services and youth organisations who work in that youth voice and youth participation space. I'm not a health expert, I would go to someone who works in health to do that part for me. So, the same thing go to someone who's an expert in working with young people. Young people love opportunities to engage in these spaces, services love opportunities to empower young people to engage in these spaces, so it's really important that you create those linkages.
Kate Steinbeck [00:57:19] Really well said, I don't know how many times I've interviewed people for a job who think having been a parent would qualify for adolescent work.
Kate Munro [00:57:31] And as I said of course that's not right, but we slip into it. It's an area that has specialised expertise, so go to people who have it.
Kate Steinbeck [00:57:40] I've got another question from this time from Pip. "Do you ever use social media for content building?"
Kate Munro [00:57:58] Pip Collin is the person you should speak to about using social media tools. Yes, I think it's good. I know lots of people do it. It's just purely a capacity thing for us. We work flat out just trying to get our heads around doing this stuff online with young people. I was saying to Kate earlier that unsurprisingly young people respond really well to doing the kinds of consultations that we do online. I started during the pandemic, so everything I did up until I went to Moree the other week, all of my stuff with Youth Action was on online, and some of that was definitely with groups of young people who were excluded from policy conversations. I find getting young people to communicate online much better than getting a group of adults to communicate online. We do a lot of work with the sector. I find it much harder to draw out interactive stuff with the sector than I do with young people. Ask Pip Collin about social media because I know that the WH&Y do a lot of work in that space using digital technologies with young people, and there's some fantastic examples.
Kate Steinbeck [00:59:19] I think perhaps we might wrap up with a comment, although you might like to comment on a comment from Pip Collin, saying "Thank you, Kate, for highlighting that working with young people to develop the questions that drive our research policy and service improvement reframes the challenges and can help us understand and target change more effectively." So I don't think that was a question, but I think it's a really excellent point for me to finish on because we've hit the two o'clock mark and on behalf of everyone online thank you Kate for being with us for an hour and really getting us thinking about some of important issues around engagement of youth and advocating for youth. Thank you, Kate, very much.
Kate Munro [01:00:11] Thank you and feel free to reach out. My email is on our website, so feel free to reach out.
Kate Steinbeck [01:00:18] OK, thank you so much. And that's the end of our webinar for today.