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Each quarter, our peer reviewed journal publishes up to six research- and practice-based articles on Australian youth. Find out more.

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Scope note: 'Participation' is a term used in youth research, policy and practice to denote the role of young people in decision-making and action within personal, social and political domains.

Distinctions can be drawn between:
private participation, or personal decision-making, and
public participation, which is more social.

'Participation' can have both broad and narrow meanings, such as:

  • the inclusion (or exclusion) of young people, whether in the labour force or in society in general;
  • young people's engagement in activities organised by others, including for example, voting in elections;
  • formal processes of decision-making e.g. young people serving on boards and committees; and
  • community activism by young people.

(Acknowledgements: Roger Holdsworth, Senior Research Fellow, University of Melbourne.)

The Australian Youth Foundation (which became the Foundation for Young Australians) defined youth participation in 1996 as the process of "developing partnerships between young people and adults in all areas of life so young people can take a valued position in our society and the community as a whole, and can benefit from their contribution, ideas and energy".

The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, or CROC sets out the participation rights that Australian children have. As almost all organisations, projects and activities in Australia today aim to greater or lesser degrees to embrace youth participation in some way, a listing of organisations in this category is problematic. Therefore only very specific youth participation links are given below.

YMCA Youth Parliament
The YMCA runs Youth Parliament programs in every State and Territory (with the exception of the ACT).

International Youth Parliament

The Organising Bureau of European School Student Unions
OBESSU is a platform for cooperation between the national school student unions active in general secondary and secondary vocational education in Europe. It brings together member and observer organisations from more than 25 European countries. All member-organisations are independent, national, representative and democratic school student organisations.

The Taking Young People Seriously handbooks, produced in 2004 by the Youth Affairs Council and the Office for Youth, Department for Victorian Communities, are a series of resources exploring young people's participation in their communities. They were developed as a result of a partnership project called Participation in Practice. For details on this series, and for other relevant resources on participation from YACVic, see their website.

In NSW, the Youth Participation Grants Program available from that state's peak body, the Youth Action and Policy Association, gives young people the power and resources to develop and implement community activities in their local area. For youth participation grants in South Australia, see that state's government Office for Youth website.

The NSW government has Best Practice Principles for Youth Participation (20/06/07) which direct government decision-makers in that state to encourage young people to participate in government decision-making. They also have an excellent list of resources on youth participation.
The Queensland government's Youth Participation Strategy spells out their committment to providing young people aged 15-25 years with opportunities to participate in their communities.
The Tasmanian Government's youth participation tools include Talking participation taking action: A local government guide to youth participation (pdf) a guide that aims to help Local Government to foster young people's engagement and participation in decision-making that affects their future. More details on the Office of Children and Youth website.(links viewed 7 January 2009)
For youth participation mechanisms in other Australian states and territories, consult their youth peak bodies (their contact details are listed on this website).
Also see the magazine, Connect: supporting student participation
ISSN 0158-4995
Edited and published by Roger Holdsworth
12 Brooke St, Northcote Victoria 3070; ph: (03) 9489 9052; fax: (03) 8344 9632.

Youth Studies Australia back issues and articles

If you are a subscriber to the electronic version of Youth Studies Australia, you can access all back issues of YSA that are online on this website.

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Researching youth political participation in Australia: Arguments for an expanded focus, by Ian Fyfe
v.28, n.1, 2009, pp.37-45. View summary | Full text: HTML | PDF

From ambivalence to activism: Young people's environmental views and actions, by Emma Partridge
v.27, n.2, pp.18-25. Summary

Social inclusion and youth participation: A New Deal for Australia's young people? by Kathy Edwards
v.27, n.2, pp.11-17. Summary

Mind the gap: Considering the participation of refugee young people, by Jen Couch
v.26, n.4, pp.37-44. Summary | Full text | PDF

Participatory approaches to longitudinal research with young people, by Dan Woodman and Debra Tyler
v.26, n.2, 2007, pp.20-26.

The Victorian local government youth charter: Opportunities and dilemmas, by Rob Nabben
v.26, n.2, 2007, pp.27-34.

Social change and youth partnership accountability work, by Kathleen Stacey, Emma Webb, Kelly Barrett, Nina Lagzdins, Desima Moulds and Paul Stone.
v.24, n.2, 2005, pp.45-51.

Engaging students with school life, by Sue Thomson
v.24, n.1, 2005, pp.10-15.

Arguing for a better future: Children and young people's participation, by David Burfoot.
v.22, n.3, 2003, pp.44-51.

Mining Tin Pan Alley, by Susan West.
v.22, n.2, 2003, pp.25-31.

What's in it for ... ? Benefits and dilemmas in the practice of youth partnership accountability, by Kathleen Stacey, Emma Webb, Sarah-Lynn Hills, Nina Lagzdins, Desima Moulds, Tony Phillips and Paul Stone.
v.22, n.3, 2003, pp.36-43.

Relationships and power (Youth Partnership Accountability), by Kathleen Stacey, Emma Webb, Sarah-Lynn Hills, Nina Lagzdins, Desima Moulds, Tony Phillips and Paul Stone
v.21, n.1, 2002, pp.44-51.

Are you old enough? Research ethics and young people, by Graeme Stuart
v.20, n.4, 2001, pp.34-39., by .

'You're a peer what?!': Clarifying the roles of peer supporters, educators and researchers for youth consultants, by Tony Phillips, Kathleen Stacey and Jai Milner
v.20, n.4, 2001, pp.40-47.

Leadership from within: rural community revitalisation and the school-community partnership, by Susan Johns, Sue Kilpatrick, Ian Faulk and Bill Mulford
v.20, n.3, 2001, pp.20-25.

Youth participation in designing public spaces, by R. White
v.20, n.1, 2001, pp.19-26.

Schooling for democracy: Issues on student participation, by S. Wilson.
v.19, n.2, 2000, pp.25-31.

Seeking counsel: Young people's involvement in local government decision making processes, by K. Paterson.
v.18, n.3, 1999, pp.41-46.

Access, retention and participation: A model of best practice, by R. Mapstone.
v.18, n.2, 1999, pp.42-47.

Growing Up In Cities as a model of participatory planning and 'place-making' with young people, by K. Malone.
v.18, n.2, 1999, pp.17-23.

How effective are youth workers in activating young people's voices, or What, and how, do youth workers help young people learn?, by R. Flowers.
v.17, n.4, 1998, pp.34-40.

Spectators in Australian politics? Young voters' interest in politics and political issues, by Q. Beresford and H.C.J. Phillips.
v.16, n.4, 1997, pp.11-16.

Whereas the (mostly male?) people? Addressing the gender imbalance in public life; and Case study: Activists in school uniform, by S. Munter.
v.15, n.1, 1996, pp.28-31.

What do we mean by student participation?, by R. Holdsworth.
v.15, n.1, 1996, pp.26-27.

Dilemmas and opportunities for the young, active citizen; and Citiz-speak: Any advance on Cicero?, by D. Owen.
v.15, n.1, 1996, pp.20-23.

Research findings on students' perceptions of political awareness and the characteristics of a 'good citizen', by H.C.J. Phillips and W. Moroz.
v.15, n.1, 1996, pp.13-19.

Youth participation: Concepts and structures, by J. Ewen.
v.13, n.3, 1994, pp.13-20.

Youth participation in youth-focused research, by V. Wilkins, K. Bryans and S. Hetzel with A. Cutler and J. Ellis.
v.12, n.3, 1993, pp.49-52.

Participation and partnership, by S. Hetzel, S. Watson and L. Sampson.
v.11, n.2, 1992, pp.33-36.

Young volunteers save the cinema in A town like Woomera, by J. Lockett.
v.10, n.3, 1991, pp.54-56.

Peer support, by J. Mitchell
'Youth Studies and Abstracts: Bulletin of the National Clearinghouse for Youth Studies', 1989 v.8 n.3, p.52.

Developing socially responsible youth, by, p. Cole
'Youth Studies and Abstracts: Bulletin of the National Clearinghouse for Youth Studies', 1988 v.7 n.1, pp.16-20.

'It's like being in brackets': Students' experiences of school committees, by L.V. Nayano Taylor
'Youth Studies and Abstracts: Bulletin of the National Clearinghouse for Youth Studies', 1987 v.6 n.2, pp.2-6.

The Student Community Involvement Program: The development of an innovative concept, by H. Bane
'Youth Studies and Abstracts: Bulletin of the National Clearinghouse for Youth Studies', 1986 v.5 n.1, pp.20-22.