Interview with Youth Advisory Panel Chair Flora Apulu

Last Updated : 29 Sep 2015

There are almost 500,000 children and young people living in Auckland - nearly 40 per cent of our city’s population. The Youth Advisory Panel helps communicate their views to Auckland Council and connect young people with programmes and events.

OurAuckland spoke to panel chair Flora Apulu about the panel’s role in ensuring the voices of young Aucklanders are heard.

Can you tell us a little about yourself? What do you like about living in Auckland? What do you think could be improved or changed?

I am 23 years old, I am Samoan and have amazing family and friends who keep me grounded and remind me to live out my purpose in life and that is to love and serve others.

I work fulltime as a Mentoring Services Manager at Genesis Youth Trust, a Police Youth Development agency - this enables me to gain an understanding and reality of what some of our most vulnerable young people are facing.

I love living in Auckland, not only because most of my family and friends are here but also because I feel that I am continuing to shape it into the world’s most liveable city.

I also love Auckland because there are so many beautiful beaches where I can go fishing, surfing and just chillax with loved ones. There are still many ways Auckland can improve and I think that it will take a collaborative approach to do so, especially around making Auckland not only the world’s most liveable city but also the most greatest place for children and young people to live.

Can you tell us about how you got involved in the Youth Advisory Panel?

I was voted in by the Manurewa Youth Council to represent young people in my local board of Manurewa. I have always been passionate about ensuring that the voices of young people are heard. So many times young people are left out of discussions that are relevant to them. Being on the Youth Advisory Panel is a chance for me to help ensure that young people are at the discussion table and are having a voice.

What have been some of the highlights of working on the panel for you?

Some of the highlights have included:

  • the Youth Advisory Panel co-designed with Auckland Council I Am Auckland - The Children and Young Peoples Strategic Action Plan, based on the voices of over 6000 children and young people. Working on this project, and witnessing the Auckland Council governing body signing it off, were highlights
  • laying a wreath at the Anzac Day commemorations on behalf of the youth of Auckland
  • speaking at the 2013 Youth ChangeMakers Summit at Auckland Museum, organised by the Youth Advisory Panel
  • enabling young people with the tools they need to develop their own ideas and projects to help other young people in Auckland through Homegrown
  • being voted and getting to serve as chairperson for my two terms on the Youth Advisory Panel
  • developing friendships with my peers on the Youth Advisory Panel who are like-minded, passionate change-makers and amazing leaders
  • I Am Auckland/Tāmaki Makaurau Youth Awards that acknowledged young people’s achievements and awesome people who work with young people
  • being part of a legacy that has been able to build a strong bridge between Auckland and young people
  • Jobfest 2015.

The panel advises Auckland Council on what’s important for children and young people. Can you tell us about some policies or projects that the panel has recently advised the council on?

  • Local Alcohol Policy - particularly providing feedback about placement of liquor licenses around schools, and other sensitive areas for children and young people.
  • We provided feedback on the draft Local Approved Products Policy - with a focus on minimising the harm of psychoactive substances on young people.
  • Significance and Engagement Policy - helping the council understand what issues are important to consult young people about, and how they can talk to young people.
  • Mayor’s Youth Employment Traction Plan and JobFest - looking at strategies to increase young people’s engagement in our youth employment creation programmes.
  • Homegrown Youth Change-Makers - creating a platform for young people across Auckland to make a change in their community.
  • 10-year budget - particularly around how to engage young people in the consultation.
  • The 2016 local government elections - we are providing advice on engaging young people to enroll, vote and stand for the 2016 local government elections.
  • We are members of the Auckland is My Playground - Sport and Recreation Steering Team which oversees the implementation of the youth sport and recreation strategy that has been co-designed with young people.

What do you think are some of the most important issues facing young people in Auckland at the moment?

Young people face many issues, including and not limited to transport issues, unemployment, not being in education or having training opportunities, dysfunctional families, mental health and other health issues.

Can you talk about the importance of voting for young people in particular? Why should younger Aucklanders vote in local government elections?

At our last meeting we moved to provide advice on ways to engage young people to stand as candidates and to vote in the upcoming election. We did this because we know that young people have unique opinions and a way of looking at the world that sometimes adults and older people don’t necessarily understand.

We want to encourage more young people to stand as candidates so that they can try and be the voice of young people in their communities.

We always want more young people to vote because they have had poor turnouts when it comes to voting. Some ideas we have recommended include continuing to work with central government to make it possible to vote online.

How can young Aucklanders (and younger readers of OurAuckland) get involved in the Youth Advisory Panel, or in other council/local government activities and events?

Younger people can join local youth councils, forums or bodies - there’s usually one in each local board area. They can also check out our Auckland Youth Facebook page and like Auckland Council on social media.

And of course they can attend local board meetings and meet local board members.

Can you tell us about the recent Generation Zero ‘Have your say’ event, and how the Youth Advisory Panel participated in the 10-year budget consultations?

The Youth Advisory Panel was concerned that the 'Have your say' events were not getting enough engagement from young people (either through submissions or at events). We know that young people often want to engage, but don’t know how, don’t understand how it’s relevant or that their voice makes a difference.

Specific youth engagement strategies work best so that we can create a comfortable youth-friendly environment, and explain the purpose of the consultation in a youth friendly way.

Alex, one of our Youth Advisory Panel members, worked with the council to organise and run a youth consultation event with Gen Zero. We held the event at Auckland University and had a really great turn out, even the mayor attended.

This is a lightly edited version of the interview with Flora.

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