UNICEF call for young people to attend drought summit

UNICEF drought summit brings young people to the conversation


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Patrick Blomfield, 16, Caroona is a member of the UNICEF Youth Drought Summit's steering committee. The Summit will ask young people how drought affects them and what steps policy makers can take to help them.

Patrick Blomfield, 16, Caroona is a member of the UNICEF Youth Drought Summit's steering committee. The Summit will ask young people how drought affects them and what steps policy makers can take to help them.

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Applications close August 30.

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Patrick Blomfield, 16, is from a cattle property at Caroona on the Liverpool Plains.

He says the drought has put young people in the position where they often have to act like an adult.

"You're making tough decisions, you're seeing things, you're doing things, that someone in their twenties, thirties and forties should be doing not someone that's still going through school," Patrick said.

But UNICEF believes unlike adults, young people have not been asked to join the public conversation on drought and its impact, until now.

UNICEF will run a NSW Youth Drought Summit for young people living with drought from 9-11 October at Lake Macquarie and they're looking for young people, aged 14 to 24, to take part.

UNICEF Australia's Head of Policy and Advocacy, Amy Lamoin said they had the idea for the summit last year, in the midst of large public conversations on drought.

"We noticed a strong conversation being had between farmers, state and federal ministers but nowhere in this conversation were we hearing from young people and how they were being affected," Ms Lamoin said.

"So we took steps to really understand what was happening for young people on the ground.

"We went out and met with young people themselves and the service providers that work with young people to really hear from them."

She said one of the most surprising aspects of this process was that it was often the first time young people had been asked what they thought and what the drought's impact was for them.

From speaking to young people they released a drought report named, 'In our own Words'.

Their next step was putting together a steering committee made up of people aged 14 to 24, to lead a summit.

"UNICEF emphasises a peer to peer model, working with young people to reach out to other young people," Ms Lamoin said.

"We're building the program for the Summit with young people living through the drought."

One of the members of the steering committee is Patrick.

He thought mental health would be a big topic of discussion at the Summit.

"Men's mental health is quite new in the scheme of things and I think looking after young people especially in rural communities is really important," Patrick said.

He said discussing how education was impacted by drought could also be a valuable topic.

"Understanding that someone might not be able to keep up with their school assessments if they're going home and feeding every afternoon," Patrick said.

Kate Currans, 15, Nyngan is the youngest member of the UNICEF Youth Drought Summit steering committee. She hopes the Summit will bring young people going through similar experiences together.

Kate Currans, 15, Nyngan is the youngest member of the UNICEF Youth Drought Summit steering committee. She hopes the Summit will bring young people going through similar experiences together.

Kate Currans, 15, from a property between Cobar and Nyngan, is the youngest member of the steering committee.

She said she's experienced a few droughts in her life but this was the worst one.

"I think it creates a lot of stress, obviously my parents deal with it differently, they have more stress than I do, but you still experience it as a young person, knowing that they're stressed makes you stressed," Kate said.

She said she hopes the Summit will bring young people going through similar experiences together.

"I think knowing that other people are also experiencing it will make people feel supported and hopefully we'll get some solutions," Kate said.

"Obviously young adults and children experience drought differently and adults don't really know how they can help unless we tell them."

The Summit will run over three days and culminate in a Call to Action which will be put to visiting decision-makers, including ministers, on the final day of the summit.

Applications to attend the summit close on August 30. To apply or for more information visit the below website. https://www.unicef.org.au/droughtsummit

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