Youth Parliament is a six month tenure that concludes with a two day Parliamentary experience. 121 of New Zealand’s youth gather in Wellington to see what it’s really like to be a Member of Parliament. The youth MP’s are able to participate in a mock bill, general debates, select committees and caucus time. Throughout the six month tenure local Youth MP’s Bianca Bailey for Rt. Hon John Key and Kaipara College Head Girl Keziah Lawes for Hon Steven Joyce attended local events with or for their MP’s and got active within the community finding out what young people in Helensville wanted.
Whilst down in Wellington, each Youth MP was able to participate in one speaking role. For Bianca Bailey that was asking a question to the Hon Michael Woodhouse about the refugee quota. The primary question then sparked a large number of supplementary questions to follow, showing how the youth of New Zealand not only cared about the number of refugees our country is taking in, but how we are caring for these people once they enter New Zealand and how the resettlement programme is carried out. The question revealed the amount of work the Government is putting in to these refugees to make sure that they can make a life for themselves here in New Zealand and making sure that these refugees are learning English, getting jobs, having a home, and the youth are being educated. Keziah Lawes spoke in the general debate about the lack of relevant sexual education in schools. Schools have a curriculum that they are required to follow, but when it comes to sexual education school are able to interpret the curriculum how they want, meaning students are not getting the full story, and the basic “sex” talk in health class is far too heteronormative. In some cases schools are able to ignore the curriculum entirely because it conflicts with the religious values of the school or teachers find it much easier to quickly brush over the difficult topic and then move on to something easier like healthy eating.
Bianca and Keziah were on the Education and Science select committee, which conducted an investigation into whether schools were accessible enough for the LGBTI community in terms of school culture and facilities. Over the two days the Committee came up with 6 recommendations about how schools can do more to make the Rainbow community, which is particularly susceptible to bullying and mental health issues, feel safe and accepted within their schools.
As part of the 6 month tenure, Youth MP’s were also given the opportunity to create a project that would help the youth in their area. Bianca and Keziah teamed up with Rodney Youth MP Dharma Bratley to create a website. Whilst the project is currently in progress, the aim is to create a more accessible way for youth to get involved with civic education, and is to help combat the rapidly declining number of youth voters. The site will be named ‘The Power of Nine’ because of the nine different topics the site will have, including “the Buzz at the Beehive, Voting Lowdown, Youth Stories and Controversial Topics.’ They believe that the lack of youth voting is because of the lack of accessible education in politics for youth.