Youth Voice in Western Sydney

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There were four keynote speakers, including myself, Khushaal Vyas from UNSW, Alice Yan from James Ruse High School and Courtney Carter from Northmead Creative and Performing Arts High School. The event was hosted by Youth Action’s Natasha Lay, and SBS Pop Asia Host Andy Trieu.

I spoke on transport, and as a student from the outer west, how this affects all parts of my life. This included my university life and the 2.5-hour trip by public transport to Bankstown. Secondly I spoke about how it affects my search for employment and whether I am able to travel within Western Sydney for employment, or have to travel to the city, as that is where transport is geared towards. I then moved on to the impacts on my social life and being unable to engage in the night time economy. Finally, I gave some insight into my view for rail crosslinks and an orbital Sydney rail line, with which I think Sydney could be future proofed.

Khushaal spoke on creating a positive youth culture in Western Sydney, and how this can empower youth to become involved in politics and their communities. He noted that his own local community saw a wonderful youth culture spring forth in the Fairfield area. Alice spoke on the need for a new teacher feedback system. Courtney expressed her concern for teaching the basics in light of the tech revolution, reflecting on her own experiences of disadvantage.

This was followed by panel discussion about housing affordability, transport, the arts and youth voter disengagement.  Joining myself and Khushaal on the panel was Labor MP for Parramatta Julie Owens, Liberal Candidate for Parramatta Michael Beckwith and Chair of the Committee for Sydney Michael Rose AM.

Of particular note was the discussion on graffiti as art, and how that can be integrated into the community. The discussion on housing affordability was discussed at length, with great points about the housing shortage, but also the need for any housing to be accompanied by transport and services, else young people (and anyone else) won’t consider it affordable. We also discussed youth opportunities in Western Sydney and how youth struggle to enter the jobs market, and gain the same opportunities as in city schools to have a predetermined advantage. Despite both politicians taking their chances to blast previous policy decisions of the other party, I believe it was a very productive and informative discussion.

It was a great experience and a great chance for youth to engage in discussions with politicians who have the power to affect these decisions.

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However, the most exciting part was the reaction towards my own speech by the Committee for Sydney members Johanna Pitman and Michael Rose AM. As a result of the Forum I was invited to attend an exclusive business NSW Budget Address with the former transport Minister, now treasurer, the Hon. Gladys Berejiklian. I was able to voice my concerns and network with many industry members with a stake in decision making around holistic planning for Sydney.

In short however, while there is record spending on infrastructure in and for Western Sydney, there is no plan to fix the current lack of cross-links, most lines planned are for the express purpose of funneling people to the city.

I think it was an excellent example of youth speaking out, and it being able to matter. So I say to Western Sydney students, your voice can matter, you just have to find your passion, an audience, and speak out.

By Nicole Gismondo

Student Editor | W’SUP

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