Meet some 2016 Youth MPs and Youth Press Gallery members

In this series of profiles young New Zealanders selected for the 2016 Youth Parliament tell us in their own words about the role of MPs, Parliament, and share their perspectives on being a Youth MP or Press Gallery member.

Two Youth MPs at Parliament Enlarge image

New Zealand Youth Parliament 2016 Youth MPs Stefan McClean abd Kii Winston Small

Source: Office of the Clerk

Youth MP Profile: Kii Winston Tijani Small

Youth MP at Parliament Enlarge image

New Zealand Youth Parliament 2016 Youth MP Kii Winston Small

Source: Office of the Clerk

Why should young people care about what happens at Parliament and what their MPs do?

Members of Parliament and local politicians always place their focus on the future of their communities and the youth, or so they say. Most actions taken by our MPs have youth in mind, if not done for youth. On a larger scale, decisions made in Parliament could not only have an effect on their futures, but the lives they live today.

Why do young New Zealanders need a voice in Parliament and politics?

There are problems in our communities and wider societies that are only visible from being a young person; whether it being the ease of communication with troubled youth or the knowledge of issues deep in the community. If we disallow youth to have a voice in Parliament and politics, political affairs will become short-sighted and out of touch with youth.

What does Parliament and our MPs need to do differently to represent young people more effectively? How do they ensure they hear from young people?

Parliament cannot expect to hear from the youth in New Zealand, when the youth are not aware of the logistics of the New Zealand Government.

 The majority of youth are comfortable with voicing an uneducated opinion on a political topic; allowing the perspective that youth don’t understand ‘the world’ to spread. To ensure that MP’s hear from youth, we must educate them in national affairs and the political system of New Zealand.

What attracted you to becoming a Youth MP in the first place?

I was studying Political Science at Victoria University and was educated on the political problems of Northland and New Zealand. Having resided in Kaitaia for five years, I was already well aware of the societal issues that we faced as a community; studying it in depth made me wants to make a change for my community.

 As cliché as it sounds, nothing positive was coming out of Kaitaia when I was living there and there was a lack of pride. Becoming a Youth MP appeared to be a great opportunity to attempt to solve my community’s problems and unearth pride in my peers.

Did you have a good understanding of what an MP does before becoming a Youth MP?

I had a fair understanding of what an MP did, but not the magnitude of the workload. From studying Political Science I gained a great amount of knowledge about the responsibility and expectations an MP takes on.

What do you hope to achieve or experience at the Youth Parliament?

I hope to achieve something positive for my community (Northland), as well as further understand what it takes to become a Member of Parliament. Additionally, I hope to make great friends and colleagues who also love their communities as much as I do.

If you could change anything about being a Youth MP member what would it be?

Being a Youth MP is a great way to understand the real problems within your community, along with networking with people in the political circle.

 Having the opportunity to be mentored by an experienced New Zealand politician, becoming a respected person in your community, inspiring youth in your hometown and public speaking about problems you and your peers are passionate about; is truly memorable. I would change nothing about being a Youth MP, given that my tenure cannot be longer.

What’s been the best (or worst) part of the experience so far?

The worst part of the experience so far is the realisation that the amount of success you will gain from your project is dependent on how hard you work. Whether that is from the experience of being a Youth MP, or growing up I am yet to find out.

Do you think our system of voting and representation needs to change to better accommodate young voters? What are some things you think could be improved?

Our system of voting can be seen as confusing to those with limited education. If we are to better accommodate youth to vote, we must educate them about voting and representation in secondary school education.

Improvements can be made to the public education system by the Ministry of Education, to better accommodate young voters.

  

Youth MP Case Study: Stefan McClean

Youth MP at Parliament Enlarge image

New Zealand Youth Parliament 2016 Youth MP Stefan McClean

Source: Office of the Clerk

Why should young people care about what happens at Parliament and what their MPs do?

Increasing youth engagement in politics is central in achieving better outcomes for youth. By just increasing awareness youth can change or improve laws that directly affect themselves and the wider society.

Young people should care because the law effects different groups in different ways. Therefore, young people have to bring to attention how the law effects them as it is ultimately unique.

Why do young New Zealanders need a voice in Parliament and politics?

Every New Zealand citizen deserves a voice in Parliament, this is central to what we as a nation aspire to through our democracy.

Therefore, in order to truly for full this aspiration youth must to be heard. Not only is enormous human capital wasted if they are not, but also it undermines our political system that effects every citizen old or young.

What does Parliament and our MPs need to do differently to represent young people more effectively? How do they ensure they hear from young people?

Our MP's and Parliament make a great effort representing youth. But there can always be improvements. One way is to connect to young people in their own environment, which is now fast becoming a visual environment.

Through tools such as well-crafted videos and documentaries, Parliament could be brought to youth in a more dynamic way to which they would be more receptive.

What attracted you to becoming a Youth MP in the first place?

With a keen interest in Law and Politics, I have always been drawn to Parliament as the legislature of New Zealand. As a Youth MP and perhaps as a MP (in time) I can contribute to making a better world through my passions. 

Did you have a good understanding of what an MP does before becoming a Youth MP?

Absolutely, I developed political awareness from an early age due to my father's work in the public service. With a keen interest in reading and history I also developed a keen interest in the role and achievements of MP's. I was also always exposed to the profession as my family have historically always been involved in European politics.

What do you hope to achieve or experience at the Youth Parliament?

I hope when I leave tenure there will be gains made in Youth Civic engagement and representation in the public service. The youth voice should not be seasonal only entering formal debate every three years through Youth Parliament.

More so, it should be constant and always contribute towards civic life. One way I will contribute to this goal is through lobbying for the adoption of the UN Youth Delegate Program, which will give NZ youth a voice on the international stage.

If you could change anything about being a Youth MP what would it be?

I hope Youth Parliament will continue to grow in importance for youth and the wider public. Through an increase in public expectation, Youth Parliament could increase sitting times from once every three years. This of course will be a challenge for Youth MP's who will have to meet public expectation, however this will be a challenge worth-while.  

What’s been the best (or worst) part of the experience so far?

So far, the highlight of my time as Youth MP was my first interview for the role. To be formally interviewed by the Speaker of the House and the PM's Chief of Staff was an unforgettable moment and made an intimidate impression on the seriousness and challenging dynamics of the role.  

Do you think our system of voting and representation needs to change to better accommodate young voters? What are some things you think could be improved?

Committing to online voting is one of the many ways the voting system needs to head in order to accommodate youth. As with all process, the electoral system needs to adapt in order to thrive in our digital society.

Youth Press Gallery Case Study: Emma West

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New Zealand Youth Parliament 2016 Press Gallery Youth MP Emma West

Source: Office of the Clerk

Why should young people care about what happens at Parliament and what their MPs do?

I think young people should care because MPs are elected to represent everyone, including them. MPs make decisions that affected us, as the youth of NZ, all the time and for youth to not know what these decisions are and what is happening within our government is a real shame and it sets a precedence that later in life it won’t matter either, when it does.

Why do young New Zealanders need a voice in Parliament and politics?

Young people need representation in both Parliament and politics, we make up a significant proportion of the country and have important and needed ideas on issues facing us, and most likely other age groups too. Without a voice letting those in power know these issues exist, how is change supposed to come about.

What does Parliament and our MPs need to do differently to represent young people more effectively? How do they ensure they hear from young people?

I think a simple way for MPs to better represent young people is by reaching out to them more. Whether this is visiting schools and talking with students about issues they believe in or hosting external forums where people with have concerns or different perspectives can come and be heard.

Right now I just don’t think there is that many opportunities for youth to engage in the political process.  If MPs were to make more of a conscious effort to ensure they were talking and meeting with young people, that would change in my opinion.

Little things like this really do make a difference as they make young people feel more important and valued, thus meaning they are making their voices heard. And when this happens I believe youth will be receive much better representation.

What attracted you to becoming a Press Gallery member in the first place?

I applied to be a member of the Youth Press Gallery due to my interest in the media and politics. I was somewhat intrigued as to the role the media plays in politics and how the two can work together efficiently to enhance people's understanding of political happenings.

I also thought it would be a great extension of my passion for both these areas and a great opportunity to work with and meet people who share the same enthusiasm for the political process in general.

Did you have a good understanding of what a journalist does before becoming a Press Gallery member?

I had some idea as to the role of a journalist before joining Youth Parliament, but now I definitely have a clearer perception. Being a journalist is so much more than just writing, it’s working with people, researching, trying to find stories that are newsworthy and that people can invest in, something I have only come to realise during my tenure as a Press Gallery member.

What do you hope to achieve or experience at the Youth Parliament?

I hope that during my time at Youth Parliament I can report on exciting happenings within my select committee and meet lots of cool youth from around the nation. I also personally love learning from other people, so having the opportunity to have over 120 passionate and active members of NZ’s youth political culture all together will be a great chance to talk with people from all different walks of life that all share unique beliefs.

If you could change anything about being a Press Gallery member what would it be?

I would of loved the opportunity to meet an actual Press Gallery member/s to gain a better insight as to what the job is like and to hear any advice or tips they had for us going into this experience.

At first I was confused as to what my job actually entailed, but with time this has become clearer. Initially though some guidance from the people who know the role best would of be super helpful and I’m sure very interesting.

What’s been the best (or worst) part of the experience so far?

My favourite part of being a Press Gallery member so far has been when my work was published and featured on Tearaway, a youth magazine. I was proud of the piece and it was just really exciting to see my writing on an actual website. Having the opportunity to do stuff like this has been very exciting.

Do you think our system of voting and representation needs to change to better accommodate young voters? What are some things you think could be improved?

I don’t think the system of voting itself needs to be changed necessarily, but instead the way youth are educated on how to do so.

There is a massive disconnect between the Government and youth, as seen in the low voter turnout rates which I think is a result of young people not knowing anything about how to make their voices heard or why it’s so important they do so. I know for myself that nearly everything I know around voting and politics in general has come from my own research, which other teenagers don’t seem to be doing.

So, I think more education on civics and especially voting is needed in order to create a environment where all youth feel comfortable and willing to cast their vote.