The Global Refugee Youth Consultations (GRYC) provided a rare opportunity to consult widely with young people across Australia from refugee or asylum seeking backgrounds. The Global Refugee Youth Consultations (GRYC) provided a rare opportunity to consult widely with young people across Australia from refugee or asylum seeking backgrounds. Alongside the international effort, consultations were organised with 555 young people across all states and territories to discuss with them what matters in their lives – their fears, their concerns, how they were able to settle into a new country and what they think should be improved.
The young people, aged 15-24, came from 53 different places, some were employed, some studying for a degree, and with an equal gender split. They were keen to share their experiences and ideas and to talk about solutions. These young people have energy, drive and vision and see themselves very much as part of the solution. Four of these young people travelled to Geneva, representing Australia at the GRYC Workshop, Annual Tripartite Consultations on Resettlement (ATCR), the UNHCR-NGO Annual Consultations, the UNHCR Standing Committee and a range of bi-lateral advocacy meetings.
Young people face many challenges when they arrive in Australia. They need support in learning English, accessing the education system and learning a new culture. If they are alone there is disconnection from family and community. They all carry with them experiences of fleeing from conflict and an often harrowing journey to get to Australia. These experiences can be difficult and traumatic and all services need to have a basic understanding of these issues so they can provide the best possible services for these young people.
Young people gave an insight into the clash of cultures that they experience when coming to Australia. This happens at home, at school, and when accessing supports such as mental health services. Young people saw themselves very much as part of the solution in providing peer mentoring, information, and support networks. With a solutions focus, the consultations provided young people with an opportunity to come up with answers to the problems they outlined. They talked about better access to education, and service providers understanding young people more in order to better target their services. They talked about sharing their stories and how this would increase community awareness and understanding of their experiences. The solutions are thoughtful and provide governments, leaders and decision makers some practical and achievable ideas on how to improve systems and supports, provide opportunities to learn from young people and foster future leaders. A successful culturally diverse society does not just happen, it requires that organisations, governments and the broader community listen to and act on what our whole community is saying, including young Australians from refugee and asylum seeking backgrounds.