The Foundation for Young Australians - Building Young People's Civic and Cultural Engagement
It is fitting that VFFF’s largest grant in the first year of Backing Young People should support youth leadership and civic participation – an area of interest for Sir Vincent and Lady Nancy Fairfax.
The Foundation for Young Australians (FYA) backs young people with the trust, resources, skills and connections to make change. Their vision is bold and ambitious – seeking to mobilise upwards of $30m towards youth empowerment over the next three years. FYA recognises young people’s optimism, drive and ingenuity to transform the future. At the same time, they acknowledge that young Australians are often overlooked as citizens and contributors.
In December 2021, VFFF approved $2m as a cornerstone investment in FYA’s Civic and Cultural Engagement Pillar and its two flagship programs – the Young Mayors Program and Student Representative Council (SRC).
These two programs each target high school students and are designed to be embedded within local communities across the country. The Young Mayors Program seeks to foster civic identity at a young age, working with local councils and young people to form Youth Councils responsible for engaging young people in their local government area – convening consultations, creating a list of priorities and developing an action plan for council. This program draws on youth council initiatives in the United Kingdom, where 11,000 young people recently voted for the 2022 Bristol Youth Council. FYA is kickstarting the program with Mackay Regional Council in Queensland, with a vision to have 15 Young Mayors Projects fully operational over the next four years.
The Student Representative Council supports students to build their representation and advocate on the issues that matter to them in their schools and beyond. In 2022, FYA has partnered with the South Australian Commissioner for Children and Young People and the National Indigenous Youth Education Coalition to launch an SRC across South Australia. In May 2022, 150 students came together for a Summit to launch the SA SRC and begin developing their vision for change.
These programs similarly create forums where young people can engage with decision-makers, whether that be their government, school or community. Here, young people can see tangible change from their input, building their capacity and opportunities to drive change on the issues that matter to them most.