An RMIT academic and alumnus have shared their youth work expertise at the first Global Forum on Youth Policies held in Azerbaijan.
Dr Kathy Edwards, a Senior Lecturer in the School of Global, Urban and Social Studies and Hasna Aminath, a recent graduate of the Bachelor of Social Science (Youth Work) were invited to participate in the forum by the United Nations Secretary General’s Envoy on Youth.
Held in Baku, Azerbaijan, the forum was convened by the Envoy on Youth together with UNESCO, the United Nations Development Programme and the Council of Europe.
The inaugural event brought together 700 youth policy experts tasked with developing a global push to take youth policies into the future.
As a local expert in youth policy, Dr Edwards drew on her research to present on some of the challenges of developing policy that transcends government departments and includes other stakeholders, such as the non-government sector.
She said participating in the forum was an enriching experience.
“Only 100 academics were chosen to attend globally, and I was the only Australian academic invited to present. It was a tremendous accolade,” she said.
Speaking to participants from among 165 UN Member States, Dr Edwards drew on examples from Victorian youth policy to explore the issues surrounding effective policy implementation in 2014.
“I focused on some lessons learned from the implementation of youth policy in Victoria,” she said.
“In particular, I noted Victoria's strong youth sector, in which many RMIT Youth Work graduates are employed, many in key policy-making roles.”
Dr Edwards said the forum facilitated an important global conversation.
“Many issues facing young people, including global security, employment and the environment, are global issues,” she said.
“A global effort towards youth policy will allow for communication and collaboration between youth policy stakeholders, the creation of a global research base and the ability to compare and contrast policy approaches.”
The forum resulted in the Baku Commitment to Youth Policies, an initiative urging global leaders to cast a collective spotlight on youth policies.
Dr Edwards said the call to action was a step in the right direction for global youth policy.
“Too often, youth policies have been constraining or coercive of young people,” she said.
“I am hopeful that the Baku Commitments will pave the way towards strengths-based policies that promote young people's flourishing.”
Also participating in the forum was RMIT alumnus Hasna Aminath, who was invited to attend as an early career policy practitioner working alongside young people in the Maldives.
Selected from a pool of over 4700 applicants, Ms Aminath presented a truly global perspective on the experience of young people.
“I was able to share my experience as a young person who grew up in the Maldives and also experienced life as an international student in Australia,” she said.
“Participating in the forum was an absolutely surreal experience. The forum provided me with a better understanding of the role youth policy plays in weaving the fabric of society as a whole.
“I was able to represent the views of young people in my country and forge valuable connections with experts from all over the world.”
Since graduating from RMIT in 2012, Ms Aminath has taken up a role as a Senior Youth Officer in the Ministry of Youth and Sports in the Maldives.
She said she still feels immensely connected to RMIT.
“I feel very supported even after graduating as I still have a fantastic relationship with many excellent RMIT staff who are experts in the field,” she said.
“This mentoring provides me with extra guidance and support and I’m sure I would not be where I am today in my field without it.”
RMIT’s community services and social sciences programs offer valuable hands-on experience to help fill the increasing demand for community service and social science professionals.
Students of the Bachelor of Social Science (Youth Work) bring a truly global perspective to exploring how young people can realise their individual and collective capabilities.