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Youth Governor of South Australia 2022 discusses a world for all ages on International Youth Day 2022

2022-08-12

Today is International Youth Day, and we spoke with Shania Richards, the Ndgaju, Gubrun, Bulang, Mirning, Barngarla woman elected as the 2022 Youth Governor of South Australia, about this year’s theme ‘Intergenerational Solidarity: Creating a World for All Ages’.

Shania was the first female First Nations Youth Governor, who recently concluded the 27th SA Youth Parliament. Shania spent five months mentoring a group of young parliamentarians to raise their voices about key issues for youth and to engage in democracy and public policy.

“The great thing about Youth Parliament, it's a safe space where I was allowed to finally be myself and talk about what I really was passionate about. You're allowed to have a say, it’s your future we’re talking about.”

International Youth Day breaking down barriers

The theme of International Youth Day 2022 speaks to breaking down age related barriers to employment, political participation, health and justice.

Youth Parliament came into Shania’s life at a time when she was experiencing adversity, and it was the exact thing she needed to overcome barriers and find her place in the world.

“I had just come out of a domestic violence situation and was healing with depression and PTSD, I just didn’t know who I was as a person. I started a job, but my co-workers weren’t welcoming, they had ageist perceptions of my generation and were pretty racist.”

Shania had to grow up fast, helping to raise her siblings. She explained how difficult it is to be underestimated as a young person applying for jobs and education opportunities.

“I just didn’t feel like I had a place in the world. Signing up to Youth Parliament was the missing piece of the puzzle, because I found myself through connecting with a like-minded community.”

“It was awesome being a part of Youth Parliament, I felt I was valued as a human and not viewed as too wild, too black, too political, or passionate. But at Youth Parliament, I was the perfect amount just by being me.”

A supportive environment

Being older than most participants in Youth Parliament meant that Shania had to remain approachable and open to feedback. The last thing she wanted was to be seen as an intimidating authority figure.

“I would encourage everyone to be supportive of each other, especially if the younger ones weren’t so confident to speak, and not judge them, instead they would check how they could support them more, and I was so proud.”

During Youth Parliament, Shania guided the future leaders of our State to develop and debate Bills concerning issues of great importance including the health and safety of the community, community infrastructure, supports for those who are marginalised and our environment.

Transformations of young parliamentarians

She witnessed some amazing transformations of young parliamentarians throughout the program and attributed their growth to listening and valuing what they had to say.

“I've seen so much progress and it's just beautiful. Some in particular with mental illness or disability were quite nervous. I gave extra support to make them feel safe, and they were just fabulous. Now they’re so confident they are running for Youth Governor”

Shania has retired from her role as Youth Governor and is inspired to continue advocating for youth. She is now considering a range of opportunities and has recently completed a stint as a children’s reporter on Behind the News for the ABC.

DHS is proud to support the YMCA to deliver SA Youth Parliament which runs from March to July annually. To learn more visit the YMCA website.

Page last updated : 12 Aug 2022

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