Speech - 2024 Heywire Gala Dinner

06 February 2024

Good evening everyone. I got the memo about sequins. So great to be with you this evening. Gosh, you look amazing from up here, if I can just say. 

Can I start by acknowledging the Traditional Owners and custodians of the lands on which we meet, the Ngunnawal people, and pay my respects to their elders past and present, and I want to acknowledge their ongoing cultural and educational practices. 

I'd also like to extend that acknowledgement to all the First Nations people joining us here this evening, and I also just take a moment to acknowledge a few other people. I acknowledge Mr David Anderson, the ABC Managing Director, Natalie Egleton, the CEO at Foundation for Rural and Regional Renewal that's really hard to say really quickly.  We should all practise it during the next break. 

Also to all my Parliamentary colleagues who are joining us here this evening. I can see Helen Haines, Dr Helen Haines there, and I apologise if I can't see anyone else, the light is a bit funny from up here. 

And of course, first and foremost, can I please acknowledge all the many wonderful and talented young people here with us this evening. 

I have to admit that after watching your videos and getting to know a little bit about you, I'm in a little bit of fan girl mode myself, and that I am in absolute awe of all of the things that you are achieving, both individually and collectively. And when I think of myself as a young person, I try and think about what I was doing at the ages of some of the young people who are here with us this evening, and let me tell you, not even close; not even close. 

So I wanted to tell you a little bit about what the current Government, the Albanese Labor Government is doing with young people, because it's actually something that I'm really proud of as the Minister for Youth, and I want to share with you some of the things that we're doing and invite you to join us as we move forward in our mission of engaging young people in the political process, and in the issues that matter most to them. 

We are looking at how do we ensure that young people are not just part of the conversation but are really integral to how we develop policy across a whole range of areas, but particularly in the areas that young people are most passionate about. 

We're looking at how we rebuild, if there ever was one, or build, if there wasn't one, that connection between government and young people. Now some of you may know this, I don't think many of you do, but before I entered Parliament I was a professor, but I also was a Founding Chair, I ran my own youth focus not for profit charity that worked specifically with young people at risk of violence and radicalisation. And the purpose of my organisation, it was called PaVE, was to empower young people to carry their destiny in their own hands, recognising that young people do have power and agency, and do have a lot of the answers that old people don't. 

I've been able to carry that through as the Minister for Youth, to look at how we can empower young people to contribute to the development of policies and programs that impact the lives of all young Australians.  

Now the Heywire platform, which I'm really, really proud and super excited to have a very, very small role in, similarly allows young people to express and share your issues, your ideas, importantly your experiences and your aspirations. 

Too often we dismiss the experiences of young people. Too often we don't take into account the fact that young people have lived experience that matters, and lived experience that we can learn from and that can contribute to the way in which we do things and deliver outcomes in a better way, that have better impacts and more positive outcomes for young people. 

This evening is a much deserved celebration of your achievements, and I know that in your lives there will be many, many, many more celebrations of your achievements. To the Heywire winners here tonight you have each shown strength, resilience and courage. And even just speaking with young people on my table, I have to say, to see young people who are so willing and take real pride and joy from being able to help others truly gives me hope. You know, I'm not really reading from my speech notes, sorry guys, but I'm getting a bit philosophical here. 

You know, working in a place like this, and as I mentioned prior to becoming a Parliamentarian I worked in counterterrorism, and I always say there were many times when I despaired, many, many times when I despaired, many times when I felt like crying, just rolling up in a ball and crying, many times where I felt powerless to make change. Even when you have a platform like this, there are times when you feel that now, and if you're a young person who feels that at times, let me tell you, you're not alone. 

But I am in such a privileged position, and I am so grateful for the young people that I meet every day who give me hope, and who give others hope, that there is a brighter future and a better way, and you do that by sharing of yourselves. That's one of the most precious gifts that you can give another person, is the sharing of yourself, a sharing of your story, a sharing of your experience, a smile; don't even discount how far a smile can go to changing someone's day, and in fact their life. 

And so I just want to say thank you for what you give me. Thank you for what you give me, and for what you give to Australians, to your peers, to the people that you work with and the people that you are passionate about every single day, and for what you are doing to create a better country for all of us. 

Now from our side we've established, or re established the Office for Youth, something that was abolished some 13 years ago   or 10 years ago, sorry   but we've now re established the Office for Youth, and I'm glad to see some of the members, hard working wonderful people from the Office for Youth here with us this evening. 

We've got our youth advisory groups that work across different portfolio areas, and one of the purposes of the youth advisory groups was to ensure that when young people have a say, that that is a substantive say, that actually makes a real difference and a visible difference in policy making. 

And so, I'm really pleased that we've got a youth steering committee and youth advisory groups working directly with departments and working directly with relevant ministers on actual real life, tangible   tangible outcomes for better policies and better programs for young people. 

Now I hope that this summit also provides you with an opportunity to have that substantive, make that substantive difference. I know you're doing it in your own communities but imagine what you could do if you had the platform and the power to take it right across the country, take it to the next level, meet new people, inspire others, and be inspired by them. 

So I want to charge you with a little bit of a request to keep telling your stories, because your story matters. Your story matters. It's the way that you make change. I learned that the first time I spoke about my history and my story. Change doesn't happen if you're silent. So keep telling your stories, tell them loudly, tell them proudly, be bold, dream big, and of course, have fun on the way. 

I'm thrilled now to hand over to one of our very talented Heywire winners from my very own home State of WA. Let's give it up for Sienna.