AYAC 2012 – A year in Review

Since this page was published there has been a change in the Federal Government, and references made to the positions of Federal Ministers are no longer correct. For information on the current Federal Ministry please visit the Australia Parliament House website.

-The last twelve months have been a very important time in the life of AYAC. We believe that AYAC has truly cemented its place in the national youth affairs landscape. Here’s a run down of some of the stuff we’ve been doing to make Australia a place where young people and the youth sector are empowered, respected and connected to decisions that affect them!



“With AYAC, we were able to establish a group where advocacy is done by Indigenous young people… able to speak up about what is actually important to us”

– Blake Tatafu, 20 years old, Indigenous youth advocate

AYAC worked to create opportunities for young people to engage and provide feedback to governments and their communities on a wide range of issues. In 2012 we:

  • brought together a small group of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people from around Australia to discuss how to make sure their voices are heard in national debates,
  • convened 22 youth sector organisations to discuss reconciliation,
  • consulted directly with 3,119 young people,
  • celebrated 50 of them who we think are “Young & Extraordinary”,
  • trained 12 young people to be advocates for issues important to young Australians
  • gave funding to 5 youth-led organisations to better engage with harder-to-reach groups of young people, and
  • built youthled.org.au as the online hub for the youth-led community, with 7 “champions” recruited to start building this virtual community.


“…genuine consultation is something quite distinct, isn’t it?”

– Natasha Mitchell, Presenter, ABC Life Matters

We realise that young people are experts in their own lives and are the best advocates on their experiences. AYAC worked throughout the year to listen to as many young voices as possible, through surveys, panels, steering committees & advisory groups, social media, events & conferences and of course, through talking to young people in our day to day work! AYAC aims to amplify their words and sentiments in decision-making processes to make sure their issues are heard.

In 2012, our engagement included:

  • partnering with youth-led organisation Youth Empowerment Against HIV/AIDS to get responses from 1,219 young people in Let’s Talk About Sex: National youth survey on sex & sexual health education,
  • collaborating with Reconciliation Australia to conduct the Yarn About Youth National Surveywith 740 young people discussing what issues matter to young people and how young people and the youth sector can progress reconciliation,
  • working with the Disability Discrimination Commissioner to get almost 200 responses to the In Your Own Words: The voice and opinions of young people with disability
  • sitting alongside young people in front the 100+ crowd at the Exploring Youth Participation with the Experts session at the Youth Affairs Council of WA conference, and
  • supporting five young community sector leaders to share their stories and views with the 300 sector representatives via a youth engagement panel at the Australian Council of Social Service annual conference.


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“This is an important further step in delivering greater accountability and driving efforts to establish a level playing field for Australia’s most disadvantaged children”

– James McDougall, Director of Advocacy, Save the Children

Throughout 2012 AYAC employed a powerful combination of consultation, representation, coalition-building, research, policy development, public awareness raising and direct lobbying to push reforms that ensure political processes uphold the rights and interests of young people. We didn’t just jump on bandwagons, but aimed to take on issues where we could see an important gap just waiting for AYAC to come and fill it.

Using this approach, we led a coalition of almost 40 of Australia’s pre-eminent children’s and youth organisations and advocates who jointly pushed for the establishment of a National Children’s Commissioner. Many of these organisations and individuals had been working on this for decades, but it was AYAC’s final push that got the campaign over the line and $3.5 million over 4 years allocated in this year’s budget.

We also contributed submissions on a range of topics including:

  • youth allowance and the sole parent payment,
  • the legal definition of charities, including youth-led organisations,
  • anti-racism and anti-discrimination policy,
  • the fly-in, fly-out workforce in rural & remote Australia, and
  • a number of submissions on what should be taught in schools under the new national curriculum.

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AYAC also launched the first ever AYAC Policy Platform (then relaunched it again with the Minister last month!) which condenses our beliefs and aspirations on 20 of the most critical issues affecting young people into short, sharp position statements that put forward sustainable solutions, best practice & evidence-based approaches and innovative models to achieve better outcomes.

Each statement emphasises the human rights of young people and places extra focus on the needs of those young people who face extra barriers to inclusion and participation.



“It’s just ridiculous. It’s really shameful, I think… It’s as simple as asking a kid, ‘what’s wrong?’. It’s as simple as that, it doesn’t take rocket science.”

– Anonymous, young participant, Beyond Learn or Earn research

AYAC research and resources aim to influence national discussion and policy development on key youth priorities, leading to stronger youth services, better policy decisions and effective engagement of young people. This year we worked with academics, youth workers, young people and other practitioners to conduct research on the experiences and opinions of young people and the youth sector across Australia. This included:

  • conducting the first in a series of Open Space webinars looking at the latest research and trends relating to the topics of “Young People and Wellbeing” – in partnership with the Australian Clearinghouse for Youth Studies and the Australian Youth Research Centre,
  • surveying young people directly through Let’s Talk About Sex: National youth survey on sex & sexual health education and theYarn About Youth National Survey,
  • auditing research and resources available in Australia on youth participation, and
  • publishing academic research papers from the AYAC National Youth Affairs Conference 2011 in the Youth Studies Australia journal.


In 2012, we also conducted a significant research project into the human impact of the Learn or Earn policy on young Australians, addressing a significant gap in the knowledge base utilised in the public debate on these important issues. AYAC conducted one-hour interviews with 27 young people from every state and territory in Australia, talking at length about their barriers to engagement in education and training, including mental illness, broken families, insecure housing and poverty. An in-depth survey of 159 youth workers with clients affected by the policy was also conducted. The resulting report, entitled Beyond Learn or Earn: Young people tell how policy can better support those who need it most was launched by the The Hon Peter Garrett MP, Minister for Youth last month and formed a strong base for AYAC’s discussions with ministers and other members of parliament, as well as future advocacy into the new year.



“Working with great partners… our capacity to reach and support a far more diverse range of young people and youth organisations has been greatly enhanced”

– Peter Newling, Chair, AYAC Board of Governance

AYAC has great friends!

Throughout 2012 we worked with 84 different organisations to deliver 24 partnership projects, including:

  • Young & Extraordinary event with the Foundation for Young Australians,
  • Open Space webinar with the Australian Clearinghouse for Youth Studies and the Australian Youth Research Centre,
  • Amplifying Innovation project with Social Ventures Australia,
  • Yarn About Youth with Reconciliation Australia,
  • Let’s Talk About Sex with Youth Empowerment Against HIV/AIDS, and
  • In Your Own Words with the Australian Human Rights Commission.



“Young people are massively impacted by government decisions… Having young people engaged is so important for the health of our democracy”

– Andrew Cummings (media release), Executive Director, AYAC

AYAC relies on its media work to amplify its messages and generate credibility and influence. In 2012, we succeeded in getting youth issues into the mainstream media and have developed our reputation with journalists as a reliable source of good news and commentary on youth affairs.

We received coverage across 16 print and online media sources and on 40 radio stations by offering journalists a more balanced view on young Australians and access to young voices in our national network – ensuring that alternative stories that more closely align with what’s really happening can be told.

Our media highlights included:

  • leading the Triple J News for 3 hours on the eve of the Australian Labor Party national conference, calling on the government to listen to young voters on the issue of gay marriage,
  • AYAC and two young members discussing the role of young leaders in the Australia’s community sector on ABC Radio Life Matters program, and
  • Let’s Talk About Sex national youth survey report coverage in four newspapers and 10 radio programs.



“Thank you!!!”

– the AYAC team

It’s been a very big year for our small team! All the work above could not have been done without the following people:

  • Andrew Cummings, Executive Director
  • Maia Giordano (until October) & Josh Genner (from October), Deputy Director – Young People
  • Reynato Reodica (from April), Deputy Director – Youth Sector
  • Natalie Lammas, Policy & Project Officer – Young People
  • Jacqui McKenzie, Policy & Project Officer – Youth Sector
  • Emmica Schlobohm (until November) & Hank Whan (from December), Administration Officer
  • Sascha Nanlohy (until June), Policy & Project Officer
  • Kieran Adair & Blake Tatafu (from July), Project Officers

Big thanks also to our Board and Policy Advisory Council members, partner organisations, individual supporters, friends in other fields for all your contributions to the AYAC movement in 2012.

Finally, to our wonderful AYAC members – we wouldn’t exist without you. Literally. So once again… [see our short video message – http://bit.ly/XLNsbu]

BRING ON 2013!!!


AYAC in 2013

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…speaking of 2013, keep an eye out for some exciting things that are brewing away in the AYAC office, including:

  • the findings from the National Snapshot of Youth Work (currently underway!),
  • a dialogue across the youth sector towards a national definition of youth work,
  • sustaining our advocacy on the best way to move beyond the current Learn or Earn policy,
  • our joint submission to the inquiry into justice reinvestment and how we can get young people out of destructive juvenile detention,
  • continuing to work with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people towards a better platform for addressing their issues at the national level,
  • holding the 2nd biennial AYAC National Youth Affairs Conference in (r)Adelaide,
  • hearing lots from the twelve articulate AYAC young advocates on important youth issues,
  • and even more from AYAC in the lead up to the federal election 2013!