Australian Olympic Change-Maker

07 December 2023

Can I start by acknowledging the Ngunnawal people, the traditional owners of the lands on which we meet. And I want to pay my respects to their elders, past and present. And I want to acknowledge their ongoing cultural and educational practises. And I also want to pass on that acknowledgement to people joining us here today. Huge thank you to the Australian Olympic Committee for inviting me to join you all here today. I'd also like to acknowledge our host and Olympian, the fabulous Brooke. Other Olympians in the room, my parliamentary colleagues, including the shadow minister Angie Bell, and most importantly, the young people from right across the country and I know there are a couple of you from WA, my home state and the families that are here with us today.

Welcome to the People's House. It's great to have you here and it's a real honour for me to be standing here before you amongst such inspiring young people and in particular the 26 leaders who have travelled from all around Australia to be here today. Can I start by congratulating you on being awarded your Change-Maker gold medallions? And let's just take a moment to appreciate how beautiful the design of those medallions is. It's really quite breathtaking. I'm sure that you'll treasure them for years to come. Now, the summit that you're all here and part of is testament to the Australian Olympic Committee and their understanding of the fact that the ideas that young people bring to the table are valuable and should be listened to. It's something that I firmly, firmly believe in. And I understand that over the past few days, you've worked on a project to share how you believe young Australians can better engage and participate in sport and such a worthy project to participate in.

On a personal note, let me just say my husband is an ex-professional ice hockey player from Canada and I don't know if anyone knows ice hockey, but he used to play with Wayne Gretzky, which is a big name in ice hockey. My sport was debating. Your views and your ideas, born from your lived experiences as young people and the lived experiences of those around you, your peers really matter and they should matter. Now our government also recognises the important role that young people like yourselves can play in shaping the decisions and the policies and the programs that have an impact on them. And that's why when we came into office, we re-established the office [indistinct]. It's a dedicated office and its role is really to listen and engage with young people in all your diversity and in a very meaningful way.

What we want to do is ensure that all young people are part of the conversation, especially in the areas that young people are passionate about and the areas that impact them differently and have the most impact on them in society. So, we've established a Youth Steering Committee and some youth advisory groups to ensure that young people can have that say directly to government without all the layers in between. And it's so great to see that this approach to engaging young people is happening in this forum, too, and through this summit as well.

Our Youth Steering Committee is developing a new youth engagement strategy, and that's looking at innovative ways of building relationships with young people and rebuilding trust in government. To inform the strategy, we undertook a national consultation that looked pretty different to what you might expect from government. We held our consultations with young people at sporting events, at music festivals, through social media, and through an easily accessible online survey. Because listening to the ideas of young people and learning from your experiences is something that I know is important. And that's not just because I'm the Minister for Youth, but also because before I entered Parliament, I actually also worked with young people and established my own charitable organisation called PaVE, that worked with young people and was youth-led.

So, it's something that I've held through my career, is that importance of listening to young people and valuing, valuing your lived experience as something that brings knowledge, brings skills, and gives us the important information that we need to be able to make policies in ways that positively impact on young people. Now, you'll often hear me say that I see examples of young people's strengths and their courage and their leadership every day. And I'm actually really privileged to be in a position where I can see that in the young people that I get to meet and interact with. And not to mention, of course, young people's energy. We all have so much to learn from you. We've got so much to learn from you, from your uniqueness of your experiences. So, to the Change-Makers here, you should be very proud of everything you've done and everything that you've achieved so far. And I'm sure there's so much, so much more to come. I can't even think of what I was doing when I was your age, but it certainly wasn't some of the things that we've seen in the videos here today. And I commend you so much for having that passion at such a young age and channelling it into positive change.

The medals that you're getting today are a reminder of the positive impact that you've already had on your school, on your communities, on your country, but also the potential of what you are yet to achieve and can achieve in the future. Now, this year, and as Brooke mentioned, close to 900 students from across Australia were nominated for the award. And out of those 900, 26 of you in this room submitted the most outstanding and inspiring videos on this year's theme, the Power of Change. And in recognition of your leadership, you've had this pretty unique opportunity this week to meet and learn from some of Australia's top sporting people. Something that I think is pretty special. Young people like you play such an important role in your communities and you make Australia better for all of us. Not just for your peers, not just for other young people, but for all of us.

You are not the leaders of tomorrow, as young people are often told, you are the leaders of today. And if there's one message that I can leave you with, that's it. To recognise that you are the leaders of today. Just like Brooke, just like Brooke, whose passion and determination I truly, truly admire, Brooke, you're amazing. From becoming the youngest member of the Australian swim team for the 1994 Commonwealth Games to a decade-long pursuit for a spot at the Olympics and winning gold and silver in 2004. What an amazing achievement and such an inspiration. Just as each and every one of you is also an inspiration, I have no doubt that this summit will prove motivational to you all and that it helps you focus on what you can do next and what comes next for you, so that you can continue to reach your full potential in whatever, whatever task you choose to tackle. I'm sure you'll all continue to make a real difference. And to quote this year's theme, be the ones to power the change. Thank you.