The Australian YCW held its national council last January. It brought together 34 young leaders from around the country to discuss the reality of young people in their cities. Their recently elected national president, Marilyn Bellett, gives us an update on their new national campaign called “Generation Connection.”
What they learned from the situations they discussed at the council is that “there is a real sense of distrust and disillusionment in young people, especially when it comes to institutions, whether that be schools, governments or church-based institutions.”
Some of the key areas they wanted to focus on included young people experiencing precarious work and wage theft, migrant young workers and refugees, asylum seekers and international students, young women, young men, as well as student realities in high schools and universities. With that last group, they have been developing their relationship with the Australian YCS (Young Christian Students).
Strengthen protections for young workers, migrants and refugees
In addition to the actions taking place locally that could be replicated and modeled in other cities, they also looked at what could be done nationally. That included organizing a mental health committee and a focus group for the women’s reality, especially about empowering young women, both groups made up of young leaders from around Australia. They also looked at how to better organize their mentors to support the young workers taking the lead in some of the areas they want to focus on. Nationally, they will do this in a coordinated way, so that they can bring about lasting and systematic change.
The aims and demands of their national campaign, “Generation Connection,” include: strengthen existing workplace protections for young workers, criminalize wage theft, improve protections for migrant and refugee workers so they are not deported for asking for their basic rights, provide training in mental health first aid to all primary and secondary school teachers, amend legislation to increase the ten psychology sessions only available to Australian citizens (i.e. increase the number of sessions and make them available to all people in Australia), and for all those who hold a temporary visa to have access to all studies without paying international fees.
Ensure young people lifelong education
They also want to develop a solid handover strategic plan for young people involved with the YCS for their transition into the YCW in order to ensure their lifelong education. They want to create safe spaces online and in person where young people can reach out for advice and connections, especially with other young people experiencing the same situations, so as to create a safety network for young people all around Australia. In this way, young people will form trusting relationships, as a basis for them to come together to form genuine communities through local groups, events and actions. This is all about establishing those connections that are currently lacking in young people’s lives and in our societies.
In addition, they want to develop a connection with a range of partners to help the Australian YCW generate more influence, for actions to have more impact. They want to organize more training sessions for leaders focusing on the campaign areas and develop resource packs to support leaders. They also have a variety of online groups aiming to establish an online network to support young people in the movement as they take action, but also to establish a contact base to engage with young people not yet involved in the YCS or the YCW.
Bring about those connections so important to a young person’s existence
“There is still a lot of work that needs to be done. […] We have those teams and national committees meeting to decide how they are going to take action, how they are going to support local leaders to enact some of the things they want to get started on the ground,” Marilyn explained.” The hope here is that we can really stay true to that vision of bringing about those connections that are so important to a young person’s existence and help support young people finding meaning in the different spaces that exist in Australia. Our hope here is that we can re-establish some of those lost connections, because young people that feel that they belong to communities, that they belong to society, contribute so much more and feel so much more valued.”
“[We want] to connect young people with their purpose in work and life. We want to connect young people with a welcoming community, a safe space to share, something that is currently lacking in the reality that we explored locally and nationally. We want to connect young people with what matters and that counters the materialistic social expectations that are currently prevailing in our reality today. We want to connect young people with their self-worth to withstand exploitation. And we want to connect young people across cultures and across faiths,” Marilyn said. “Because what we have realized in the movement in Australia today is that we are made up of young leaders and young people that come from a mixture of different faiths, traditions, and cultural and ethnic backgrounds, and so our challenge today for the Australian YCW is how we navigate this space, knowing that the demographics and the vision and what makes up our movement today is very different from what has been in the past. It is an exciting time. It is also a scary journey,” she concluded.
Take action for all young people across the world
Aware of the international dimension of our movement, Marilyn also sent a message to the other movements asking them to keep the Australian YCW in their prayers. “There is a lot that we have to learn from all of you as well. […] So we look forward to sharing more of our journey with you. […] We thank you for your ongoing support, for your communication, for your kind messages on social media. […] And from all of us here at the Australian YCW, we stand in solidarity with you, we work with you as we take action for all young people all across the world. And we hope one day that we can generate that lasting change that is really needed in our world today.”