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Youth Violence Speech

Transcript by Stepan Kerkyasharian

This is the first year it has been decided to give the youth of this state their own day to tell the older generation what they want out of a multicultural New South Wales in the future.

This is a chance for you future leaders to cut your teeth on public debate and advocacy about the social issues which you will have to navigate in the near future.

We have long argued that senior leaders should stand aside and allow young people to start running community organisations. Otherwise young people might just drift away and lose interest. Those valuable skills of culture and language which the children of immigrants learnt at home and which have such economic and social value to our society will be lost if young people are given their chance.

As we are all well aware many of the community relations issues on the political agenda these days impinge on youth – the Cronulla riots, religious extremism, street crime, unemployment and racism. And that’s why we want them to talk to each other and talk to us about these matters.

Your workshop session will deal with very specific and sticky issues including drugs, underage drinking, steroid-taking and gambling, masculinity and youth engagement with politics. These issues have been proposed by you young people yourselves as being those of most concern to you.

We are all aware that to date very few young people have emerged in the mainstream as spokespeople for cultural, religious or language communities. We want to turn that around. The Commission knows many young people of very high quality are out in the community. They need to be given opportunity and encouraged to step up. We know that immigrant children are well and truly over-represented at the top of the HSC results, and have been for many years. However we have yet to see many of those bright minds enter public life. We hope this Youth Leadership Day will prise open the door.