The Anglicare Youth Family and Health Services (AYFHS) Youth Reference Group provides a forum for young people (12-25yo) in the ACT who are AYFHS service users to join as members and share their opinion of AYFHS’ services and activities. Their approaches to establishing and delivering the Youth Reference Group used evidence-informed approaches in youth participation.
The Youth Reference Group was formed as a result of a commitment to involving service users in the design and decision making process for change relating to the service. At a minimum, there is a commitment to provide an opportunity for young people to be consulted and informed about AYFHS’ services, programs and activities as per Hart’s youth participation ladder, with any limitations on the decisions made by the group being clearly articulated. All members are fairly remunerated for their time and their input, with 10 meetings held since August 2022, including one for the development of a program logic. One of the members has been instilled as a co-chair, with additional opportunity to contribute to the structure of the group.
Members contribute by identifying opportunities or issues of concern for children and young people in the ACT to inform AYFHS’ service design, evaluation, and strategic priorities. Members are informed about AYFHS projects and activities, including progress updates, and are given regular opportunities to lead the development of activities and contribute to broader advocacy and staff recruitment.
A number of initiatives have been youth-initiated, such as a market day, First Aid training, and PhotoAccess photography course. The Children and Young People’s Commissioner visited the group after being suggested as a guest by the group, with their visit being positively received as an opportunity for the group to have their say on issues beyond those immediately impacting Anglicare. Two recruitment rounds for client-facing roles had interview panels featuring a youth reference group member, with their assessment directly contributing to the hire of the successful applicants.
Some of the benefits of the group as articulated by the members include the following:
- ‘I’m able to point out where we are lacking and what could be useful resources.’
- ‘Through some of the events we have held we have been able to reach more youth people’
- ‘I’ve been able to contribute to the community’
- ‘I’ve found it fulfilling and really hopeful to see that this organisation wants to hear our input and wants to improve their services based on the needs of young people’option for the ACT, a highly effective intervention for young people and their parents, and training of a skilled workforce ready to work with critical mental health concerns for young people.