5 minutes with Australia’s Young Women of Influence | Yasmin Poole
Each year the Australian Financial Review presents its list of the leading women influencing Australia’s culture, economy, law, politics, and society. This year more than 10 young women were named in the list. We wanted to find out who they are, how their work influences and relates to young people’s experiences of employment and transitions, and what visions they hold of young people’s futures in Australia.
Yasmin Poole | Speaker, Writer and Youth advocate
1) What do you think is the most important issue for young people in Australia face today?
I think the biggest issue is ultimately uncertainty. This falls under the idea that youth issues are interrelated. Automation, the housing market, mental health, jobs, politics, Brexit and leadership spills, climate change, and so on – all of these contribute to young people feeling uncertain about their futures, and this leads to disillusionment about what’s happening next, how to shape the future and tackle this uncertainty.
2) Why do you think this is an important issue for young people?
Uncertainty is something that affects every facet of our lives. Not only here and now, but also into the future and for future generations. For example, climate change is intergenerational and will continue to affect us. If there’s a way to create a framework for here and now, that’s something we can and should focus on.
3) How does your work impact young people and their futures?
There are two elements to my work that impact young people and their futures. The first is advocacy towards decision-makers about youth policy reform. I had the opportunity to lead the Victorian Government’s Youth Congress, the government’s first-ever youth advisory board where we were able to advocate on key issues affecting young people including mental health, homelessness, employment education, and work directly with the Victorian Minister for Youth Affairs. I learned the power of co-design and the importance of incorporating young people in conversations about policies that will impact their lives.
The second is engaging young people in politics and government. Research from Triple J’s What’s Up In Your World report found approximately 85% of young people feel that the government isn’t working in their best interests. So how can we channel this frustration from apathy to engagement? My work is focused on giving young people the space to engage meaningfully in politics across the board; building their confidence, ensuring their voices are heard, that they can contribute to the debate, and effectively pressure governments to talk about youth issues.
4) In your own life, what ideas or experiences have you found most influential in developing skills for the work you do?
For me, growing up in a low-income home really shaped my experiences because I never had networks there to talk about future careers, opportunities and pathways. I didn’t know what to do after high school and so took a gap year instead. This is when I learned the power of networking, something we didn’t have exposure to in school. The power of networks, of learning from others, and listening have made my work in engaging young people in politics possible to pursue.
I’m acutely aware that other young people come from disadvantaged backgrounds and can slip through the cracks. Many don’t have the resources, knowledge and advice needed to help them develop their passions and careers, which poses a significant challenge.
We must ask how we can, as a society, unlock young people’s agency. I think the education system needs to prepare young people for that, with a focus on soft skills and the importance of networking and learning from others.
5) Looking towards the future, what would you keep, change and create to make education or workplaces better, fairer or more relevant for future generations?
Keep: Keep the idealism of young people and celebrate it.
Change: The education system in order to reflect innovation and adaptation, to better future-proof Australia as a whole.
Create: Spaces in government for youth co-design (including a federal youth advisory board), where young people can shape policy that better supports and represents their youth interests, ideas and concerns.