A message from Port Phillip's youth

Recently, Progressive Port Phillip hosted a forum to explore key issues facing young people. Environment, open dialogue with Council, mental health, and a tolerant and equitable society, were some of the issues raised, reports university student Aidan McGartland.

“It’s time,” Gough Whitlam declared in his 1972 victory speech “to involve the creative energies of our children and our youth.”

Young people certainly still do have a plethora of “creative energies,” and Port Phillip is no exception. In our beautiful bay side local government area, there are many enlightened young people with coherent ideas and well-formed opinions. According to the 2016 census, young people (under the age of 30) make up more than 33% of the population in Port Phillip - comprising school students, university students and young people in the work force.

Recently, Progressive Port Phillip hosted a forum to explore key issues facing young people.

It is no surprise the most prominent issue for young people in Port Phillip is the environment. In September last year the City of Port Phillip declared a climate emergency, signifying a new era of environmentalism at a local level. There are still many areas that need to be addressed, according to young people. Protection of the bay - with its rich marine life, increased tree planting, a Port Phillip wide integrated water management system, green parks and litter free streets are some of these issues. Young people are not naïve and realise that climate action and conservation begin small and at a local level - with responsibility falling on the individual, the community and the council.

Secondly, young people value communication and appreciate the open dialogue with the council through programmes such as the Youth Advisory Committee, headed by a specialist youth officer, that aims to empower and educate young people on local governance. The council process can be daunting, and many young people are intimidated by the system at first. Having a clear, transparent dialogue is vital at all levels of government for a healthy liberal democracy.

Thirdly, mental health is an important area of interest for young people. Access to specialist youth services, such as Headspace and more general services like Star Health, are vital - particularly as we have seen the effects of devastating bushfires, a pandemic and lockdowns in 2020. Information about mental health needs to be clearly communicated to younger members of our society.

Lastly, young people want an open, tolerant and equitable society - where no one is discriminated against because of their identity. In the summer of 2018/2019, there was a rally held at St Kilda beach by political extremists aimed at attacking a visible minority. This sent shockwaves through Port Phillip and provoked a strong response from all levels of government and law enforcement. It showed that Port Phillip is not immune from current polarising trends and extremism. There is some re-assurance, however, as the rally did not include many, if any, local residents. Young people want our society to stay diverse and to develop and actively promote tolerance towards all members of society. Diversity of cultures, ethnicity, language, religion, politics and sexual and gender identities are part of what makes Port Phillip special.

These are just some of the many issues raised and solutions proposed by young people of Port Phillip. We want to make ourselves heard loud and clear. We want to directly fix problems in society in unison with our community and our council. Young people are the future and as proclaimed by 19th century British Prime Minister, Benjamin Disraeli, “youth is the trustee of prosperity.”

Aidan McGartland is a 22-year old university student from St Kilda.