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Youth Forum 2023 Review

Grace McGowan

I was fortunate enough to attend the Youth Forum at the AAAH Youth Health Conference hosted in Adelaide in November 2023. Semara Jose from Deadly inspiring Youth doing Good facilitated the Youth Forum and youth workshops over the three days in Adelaide. She was able to captivate and empower everyone in the room in a genuine and trustworthy way that allowed us all to feel comfortable and speak our thoughts about what actually mattered to us freely in a non-hierarchical way. The youth forum shortly turned into the “Vortex Crew” where we were able to discuss with our fellow peers what genuinely mattered to each of us and what the AAAH should be doing to help action and invest in the areas of concern we established. The Youth Forum also included a “How to Conference '' – Hacks for First Timers and Young People which provided some tips and tricks and was an insightful way for all the young people to kick off the conference and allowed us as young people to make the most of the conference and experience!

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By the end of day 2 of the Youth Forum, the Vortex Crew had established key themes, all with an overlapping themed message. The importance of Youth Voice. On the afternoon of Day 3, some representatives from the Youth Forum, including myself, presented to the conference attendees about what we had discussed throughout the Youth Forum and the overarching key themed messages we established.

 

A prominent theme that was discussed within the Youth Forum included the contrast between the lived experiences of health professionals and those of today’s young people. Our discussions highlighted how health professionals often don't understand what it's like to be a young person in today’s society. They lived in a time where many key issues faced by young people, such as (but not limited to) mental health and sexuality / sexual health, were seen as taboo and not openly discussed or understood. This gap in understanding and awareness creates challenges in addressing these issues in a modern context.

 

Another theme that arose in the Youth Forum discussions was the importance of co-design that is both community-controlled and youth-centred. Our discussions emphasised the need for a space that fosters genuine partnerships based on trust and is open minded to insights informed by young people’s lived experience. This approach will help to ensure that outcomes are responsive and designed around the real-life experiences of young people and those accessing the system. By prioritising the voices of young people and valuing their input, we can create a healthcare environment that can truly meet their needs and address the unique challenges young people face.

 

We also spoke about the idea of a Youth translator and peer navigators in health settings, so that the health service is founded on mutual respect, and that all patients are treated as an individual with person-centred care. It was discussed how this could help amplify youth voices in healthcare and could act as a “translator / navigator” between the young person and the health professional to help the young person understand and eliminate the use of medical terms and jargon in health spaces.

 

Overall, the Youth Forum connects young people from all different backgrounds and walks of life Australia wide with our aim for 2023 being to establish a partnership that is both community-controlled and youth-centred, helping to bridge the gap between health professionals and young people. This collaborative co-designed community prioritises trust and openness to insights that are informed by young people’s lived experiences. The Youth Forum Vortex Crew believes this would help lead to more responsive outcomes designed around the experiences of those accessing the system and helping utilising youth voice in practice. 

Grace McGowan is a 3rd year ​​Occupational Therapy student at Australian Catholic University wanting to work with children and young people post grad. Grace is a AAAH member and works as a Youth Health Advocate, working with multiple organisations on a local, national and international level, advocating to make a proper change in a imperfect system and provide intrinsic insight and help to educate the public, professionals and researchers on the matters effecting young people the most. Grace was the inaugural recipient of the AAAH “Rising Star” award in Youth Health for 2023. Grace is a strong advocate for listening to young people’s experience in the healthcare system, and brings lived experience in chronic illness and disability. 

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2024 Youth Health Conference

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2024 Youth Health Conference theme: Connecting to Our Future

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