Reporting on the leaders of tomorrow at Youth Parliament

Reporting on the leaders of tomorrow at Youth Parliament

Law and arts student Sophie Dixon is a member of the Youth Press Gallery and reported on the recent 2019 Youth Parliament, where New Zealand’s Youth MPs took a stand and declared a climate emergency.

During 2019 Youth Parliament, 120 Youth MPs represented an MP in the House of Representatives, while members of the Youth Press reported on the three-day event.

Reporting on the 2019 Youth Parliament as a member of the Youth Press Gallery was an incredible, rewarding opportunity. Over the three-day event from 15 to 17 July, I learnt from both the leaders of tomorrow and the leaders of today.

120 Youth MPs are selected for this triennial event to represent an MP in the House of Representatives. They debate, heckle, compromise, and advocate for their communities. Meanwhile, the Youth Press Gallery, who are selected from across New Zealand by the Ministry of Youth Development and Parliament, report on Youth Parliament’s aims and ambitions. Our articles will be published in VUWSA’s student magazine Salient over the coming weeks.

I was also lucky enough to be commissioned by Radio New Zealand to report on the most important result of Youth Parliament: the declaration of a climate emergency. This declaration will hopefully inspire New Zealand Parliament to follow in their footsteps. In the course of reporting on this, I spoke to Green Party co-leader Marama Davidson, Green Party MP Chlöe Swarbrick, National Party MP Nicola Willis, and ACT Party MP David Seymour. This allowed me to realise how accessible politicians can be if you reach out.

I also discovered how important it is to raise awareness of politicians’ views on important issues that will affect our rangatahi, such as David Seymour attacking the actions of Youth MPs, labelling them “laughably naïve”, a demeaning and dangerous outlook that does not reflect the power and passion evident at Youth Parliament.

It was an important, eye-opening experience to recognise the current combative, partisan state of New Zealand politics, and to see this somewhat reflected in Youth Parliament. The Youth MPs debated on a mock Sustainable Energy Bill, which again demonstrated this generation’s focus on climate change and the urgent need to shift to a sustainable economy. Other important topics included mental health, recognition of tikanga Māori, and LGBTQ+ rights. The Youth MPs also focussed on meaningful action in their smaller select committees, and there was a clear drive to create a new, hopeful age of political action.

Sophie Dixon is a first-year law and arts student majoring in Politics and English. She lives at hall of residence Weir House.

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