THEY are not yet old enough to vote but a pair of Melville teenagers made sure their voices were heard regardless when they joined 57 other students temporarily taking control of Parliament House earlier this month.
Aspiring human rights lawyer and Leeming resident Bhavya Chhikara represented her home seat of Jandakot while Attadale mental health advocate Orlagh Latawski represented Forrestfield in the 2017 Youth Parliament.
The daughter of Indian migrants, Bhavya (17) spent her early years in Russia before moving to Australia in 2008.
She formed part of the Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs Committee that worked on and successfully shepherded through a bill aimed at helping indigenous into the workforce.
“Right now 78 per cent of the juvenile prison population is indigenous and the indigenous employment rate is lower than 50 per cent ,” Bhavya said.
“The bill we proposed and passed aimed to provide indigenous people who have not entered or are currently removed from the workforce with qualifications and expertise that would help them find and keep a job.”
In the lead up to Youth Parliament, which ran from July 2 to 7, Bhavya met with Jandakot MLA Yaz Mubarakai to discuss some of the specific issues facing the electorate.
“One of the biggest issues is the lack of schools in suburbs that were recently added to the electorate, including Piara Waters and Harrisdale, which is damaging the quality of education because teachers are under pressure,” she said.
Orlagh (16) believes the biggest challenge facing young people in WA is the rise in mental illness and lack of support for the condition.
“I decided to apply for Youth Parliament because, as a young Australian, I realise the mass of issues we are currently facing and the lack of youth voices in parliamentary decisions,” she said.
“Although we are certainly in a better position, (mental health) service wise, there is still a long way to go with treating and preventing mental illness in young people.
The Youth Parliament program took place at Point Walter Recreation Centre and Parliament House, and allows young people to have a parliamentary experience while developing leadership skills, making new friends and growing a network of like-minded people who care about the issues young people are facing.