Wednesday, July 7, 2010

My space, equality and peer networks...

I recently participated in a youth roundtable session with a Lord Mayors Charitable Fund (LMCF) based in the City of Melbourne and I'd thought I would share some of my thoughts and notes on what was discussed.


Background to the LMCF group:
For those who aren't aware of the group (I wasn't aware of them until they were seeking youth opinions from YACVic (Youth Affairs Council of Victoria) groups), but they are a philanthropic type of organisation run by diverse group of volunteers who allocate money as grants to various community initiatives, mainly around the City of Melbourne region - although they have been known to extend their reach throughout Victoria and Australia.


Contrary to the name and where they are based, they actually are a separate entity from the City of Melbourne council (For example, they actually pay leasing costs for their facility). They receive donations from businesses and individuals, although the bulk of their funding comes from donations by individuals. 


Their focus:
They have various focus areas where they aim to direct their funding, including family/ youth, crisis support and health. As part of the session we were there to provide the youth perspective on the issues and areas that we believed they should be directing their funding. The discussions were focused around the themes: Space and Place, Inequity and Access, and Mentoring - Community Connections. 


Space and Place
This seems very important, it is something that has come to my attention more and more recently, including the Privacy Victoria conference on May 31 (see blog for more details). Since everyone deserves and seeks their own space and place for their own. Often young people can be seen as nuisances or pests hanging around the shopping centre or car parks, so the issue of where they ought to or could hang out was discussed. One important point to make was that they, as everyone else, should have a right to be hang around in public spaces. It seems that there is a need for somewhere where they could go, particularly at night and during hot weather. Not necessarily as far as creating a public place exclusively for young people alone, but a place that they would like. To be entertained and socialise, with family, friends and the like. I wonder if these places can promote safe or no alcohol drinking? 


Inequity and Access
Disability and access to accommodation, the latter referring to the difficulties and discrimination in relation to young people wanting to find a house to rent. Disabled people were in this boat as well, even more so was the difficulty finding a 'disability-friendly' home which I found concerning. In terms of disability itself and IT, there were difficulties reported about the design and layout of websites which makes it difficult for disabled individuals to use. This reminded me of an article called, 'Communicating in virtual worlds through an accessible Web 2.0 solution' published in the Telecommunications Journal of Australia, Volume 60, No. 2, 2010 and can be read further at http://publications.epress.monash.edu/doi/full/10.2104/tja10019. It's a great read and discusses the very problems faced by disabled individuals online and how beneficial the internet can be for them. (You may also like to read my brief blog on the article: http://vulongtran.blogspot.com/2010/06/using-web-20-and-3d-worlds-to-enhance.html) 


Mentoring - Community Connections
The last, community connections engulfing my thoughts as I recalled a quote presented to me at the APCCAN child abuse and neglect conference in Perth late last year - see blog post for details), 'A person is person through other persons...' and that strengthening peer networks, i.e. the informal support networks for communities seemed to be the most effective way for people to help one another. 


It brings the concept that always seems to come up in discussions about peer pressure how it influences people, along with finding the best way to teach and to educate and the common answer is through peer learning, i.e. peers teaching other peers. This is most likely apparent as one generally relate best with ones peers who 'understand them' and what they're going through. A slighter older peer was suggested as another possible teacher/ mentor outside of this peer network, given that they are not 'out of touch' yet. 

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