The Youth Jury aims to assist with bridging racial intolerance and cultural diversity among young people of Parramatta. The Youth Jury presents young people with practical opportunities to learn and discuss the diverse interests and concerns of a wide variety of young people across the Parramatta region. Youths will learn about teamwork, negotiation skills and the powers of government so as to encourage them to form realistic recommendations that aim to support the needs of the collective youth of Parramatta.
The Youth Jury aims to convert the jurors' recommendations into tangible results in the Parramatta region. These recommendations are aimed at key government and community organisations of Parramatta that show a willingness and a capacity to act on the recommendations of the jurors.
Youth Juries are a variation on the adult-based Citizens' Jury model for citizen participation in government decision making. Citizens' Juries began in the U.S. (designed by Ned Crosby) and Germany (designed by Peter Dienel) in the 1970s and have been used throughout the world since that time.
Youth Juries have only been conducted in the United Kingdom. In 1999, Cambridge City Council ran what seems to be the first Young Citizens' Jury. Parra Youth Matters is the first Australian Youth Jury and, we believe the first in the world to be conducted by young people. (for more info see Citizen Juries)
Unlike a criminal Jury, there are no lawyers or judges. Instead the Youth Jury asks the questions and makes all the decisions. In addition, the participants choose the specific topic ("the Charge") which the Youth Jury examines, themselves at an earlier date.
Political science students at Sydney University initiated the project. We took the course "Consultation: Community, Business, Government" in 2002 with Dr Lyn Carson. As part of the course, we designed and ran a Citizens' Jury in the class, which was hard work but fun. When the opportunity came up to obtain funding to run a similar process for high school students, several of us decided to help organise it, with Dr Carson heading up the team. The project team is supported by community consultation experts in Australia and overseas.
Several new people have joined the team since it first started in August 2002. They include students of education, psychology and economics at Sydney University.
We all have different career aspirations, but it's probably true that we share an interest in working for positive changes in our society. Some of the options that we have talked about, include providing advice to politicians, working for government departments, becoming university academics, working in schools, and helping to strengthen local communities. (For more info see project team)
The issues that the jurors consider will mainly be up to them but will essentially centre around issues of cultural diversity and racism in Australia. In addition, the project hopes to assist in the development of an understanding of democratic processes amongst young people.
The project will look at these issues at the broad scale of Australia as a whole, and also specifically how they affect the lives of young people in Parramatta. The conclusions that the Youth Jury comes up with will then be compared to the views of other young people who were not selected. The Youth Jury will also consider the opinions of community groups.
Participants will be selected from applications sent in by young people to the Parramatta Youth Jury. The 18 jurors will be randomly selected from the pool of participators, but all jurors must satisfy the age range (16- 17 years old) and broadly be representative of the demographic profile of the Parramatta region. Each young person who applies has practically an equal chance of being selected. We aim to obtain a Jury that reflects the full diversity of young people in Parramatta.
To become a Youth Juror you need to send in a participation form to register your interest. We will then go through all the applications and randomly select applicants so that the 20 jurors selected are representative of the young people of Parramatta. If you get selected, then you will need to participate in three pre-meetings read through your briefing materials and participate in the actual Youth Jury, which will be held in July.
The selected Youth Jurors will participate in three pre-Jury events. The first one will be to introduce the Jurors and what they need to know about the Youth Jury.
At the second meeting, the Jurors will decide what interests them about the theme of the "impacts of cultural diversity on the Parramatta area". As a group, they will come up with a specific question (the Charge) related to this theme. The Charge will become the focus of the Youth Jury event itself.
At the third meeting, the Jurors will learn some useful skills to help them tackle the Charge, like argument mapping, consensus building and strategic questioning.
During the lead-up to the Youth Jury, the Jurors will also contribute to the design of the Agenda for the event. They will help to shape the process they have been selected to participate in.
The group of Youth Jurors will take three days to answer a question (the Charge) they have chosen beforehand. The Charge for this Youth Jury will be related to the "impacts of cultural diversity on the Parramatta area".
To begin with the Jurors will look at information about all aspects of the Charge, and question witnesses who are experts in areas related to the Charge. This leads up to deliberation between small groups of Jurors, which is a crucial part of the event. It allows Jurors to talk about what they have heard, and put together a more complete picture of the main issues. As individuals express their views, the group will have to deal with conflict and find solutions that everyone accepts.
Finally on the third day, the Youth Jurors will use everything they have covered to make recommendations, which answer the Charge. These recommendations form the report of the Youth Jury, which will be delivered to the Government and distributed widely amongst the media.
At the conclusion of the youth jury, the jurors will have completed recommendations in regard to their selected charge. Those recommendations will be presented to the wider Parramatta community during a public forum soon after the jury is completed. They will also be passed on to all stakeholders and participating parties. While the recommendations have no binding capacity, they will present an accurate picture of Parramatta's youth and the issues that concern them. All appropriate usage of the recommendations will be encouraged and promoted by the project team.
The project is almost entirely dependent upon volunteers to make sure that it will be a success. If you are interested in helping out in any way, whether just for one or two tasks or for one or two hours, any help would be greatly appreciated. This goes especially for those who have had any experience with young people, or may be bilingual.