Youth Consultation in Mount Druitt

Why consult? What’s the point?

As identified in our strategic plan, one of MECA’s core aims is to activate individuals and communities so that they can identify skills and strengths, reach their potential and maximise their opportunities. Part of our commitment to achieving this goal necessitates regular community consultations. Through these events we help community members to articulate what is working well for them and what they believe are the best things about their community and, by doing so, we gain insight into current perceptions of the community’s assets and needs. Following the identification of our community’s assets, we seek to capitalise on these attributes in order to effect positive change in the community. Within the field of social work, this approach is commonly known as the Asset-based Community Development model. It is by utilising this model within our youth consultation that we were able to help young people from Mount Druitt outline what they thought we did well in the area, and how we could use this as the basis for community development.

This consultation process was also part of MECA’s wider commitment to civic engagement, social participation and active citizenship for young people. Asset-based Community Development was pursued as part of MECA’s consultative agenda because it has the potential to encourage active citizenship through citizen-to-citizen connections, while simultaneously strengthening the capacity of people as citizens to claim their rights of access to assets on which they depend for their livelihood.  Active citizenship originates in community, and Asset-based Community Development builds a sense of community, while enhancing the prospects for sustainable livelihoods. Taking an inventory of the sources of pride in a community can also enhance community capacity and help to build a sense of personal ownership over community initiatives. It is for these reasons that MECA bases community consultation on the Asset-based Community Development model.

Who was there?

Our consultation included a range of stakeholders. The aim of the consultation was to speak to young people from the Mount Druitt area, who were from migrant or refugee backgrounds. As a result, a significant portion of our attendees fell into this category. However, we also sought the perspectives of people who worked closely with this cohort of young people, including local youth workers, CALD service providers, local media, school and other institutions. We also had a number of special guests for the day, including Multicultural New South Wales and members of the MECA board.

So, what did we do?

In order to gain an insight into the perspectives of the young people in Mount Druitt, we sought to engage participants in a discussion that focused on what they saw as their community’s attributes. This discussion brought together young people from diverse backgrounds, with wide ranging experiences. As a result of the high levels of groups diversity, we were able to glean opinions from people with varying perspectives and distinct positions on what makes Mount Druitt great.

Questions posed to the young people sought to help them draw on their experiences in their answers, and use their expertise in their own lives to provide evidence for their conclusions. This conversation strategy recognises that young people are experts in their own lives and best placed to speak about the issues that affect them. As a result, our young participants were able to articulate their ideas to each other, and report their positions thoughtfully. The overall effect was to produce rich data for use in program development and advocacy.

What happens now?

The consultation yielded a substantial amount of information. This data will be collated into a report that will inform future programming and advocacy positions. Programs that are developed from this information will have a solid evidentiary basis and incorporate the information offered within the consultation in a manner that demonstrates to the young people the value and importance of the information they provided. Future advocacy by the organisation will also utilise the data collected in order to access resources for our target communities. Through this, we hope to strengthen community engagement in civic and social activities by demonstrating the results that can be achieved by doing so.