Adam Kovalevs is 21 years old, a local Councillor for the City of Swan and also works for a State Member of Parliament.
He has thrown his support behind YMCA’s Why not campaign and said “I know that YMCA has a strong history of providing safe, authentic and empowering platforms for young people to be heard. I believe that young people who are engaged with their communities strengthen their communities. Without the contribution of this demographic we miss out not only on new ideas and perspectives but also so much talent, skill and creativity.”
Adam is grateful to come from a local community where young people are encouraged and believed in, his election to local council being testament to this. Adam says the Why Not campaign provides a forum for young people to have a say and influence important conversations.
His thoughts on equal marriage rights seems to reflect the majority of young people in Australia. In YMCA’s Voice of Young People in Australia Report 2017, 86% of young people do not feel their voice is being heard on the issue of marriage equality.
Adam said, “To be honest I cannot believe it is still an issue in 2017. At the end of the day, this isn’t a political or religious issue, it is and has always been an issue of basic human connection, of love. In our society; marriage is a public demonstration of the commitment and love which two people share. A plebiscite or referendum would only lead to ugly, divisive comments from a group which is clearly in the minority. The negative fallout from this would be avoided with bipartisan support for legislation.”
As a young person Adam has witnessed the impact of high youth unemployment amongst his friends and peers.
He said “Youth unemployment is too high. It can be difficult to even get entry level jobs. It has a significant ripple effect on people’s health and mental wellbeing, exacerbates social problems and in turn harms society at large.”
He identifies that the unemployment problem starts from when young people are studying through to when they are trying to gain full time employment.
Adam said “TAFE and University students are finding it increasingly difficult to find work around study timetables, with many relying on family to support them. Young people without support networks find it even harder to remain engaged in education. Those who struggle through undergraduate course are increasingly finding that a degree does not necessarily guarantee employment which is very disheartening.”
Adam feels that the issue of marriage equality and youth unemployment directly links to the biggest issue young people are concerned about, being mental health.
He said “Mental health is one of, if not the biggest issue facing young people today. It can be linked directly to other youth issues such as unemployment, housing affordability, drug/alcohol abuse and sexual and gender identity.”
One of his concerns he would like addressed is breaking down stigmas and stereotypes.
“Unfortunately there are still sections in our community where there is a stigma associated with having a mental illness. I feel that there is the perception that mental illnesses are somehow a weakness rather than a legitimate condition such as a broken bone, diabetes or cancer. This stigma and fear of being labelled can prevent people from seeking the early intervention or specialised help to overcome the associated challenges.
Adam urges young people to get involved in Why Not and said “It is easy to feel that the voice of youth is overlooked or undervalued, it may even be true at times. This is why I encourage people to take advantage of opportunities that are presented to be heard. Speak up for what you believe in, be an active part of the conversation and support others to do the same.”
“The YMCA Why Not campaign provides a genuine platform for young people to not only be heard by people of influence but to become people of influence.”
YMCA is asking Australia ‘Why Not,’ on three issues young people have said they want addressed as a priority being youth unemployment, mental health and marriage equality.
YMCA WA CEO Ross Kyrwood said: “Young people have and always will shape the future, but only when they are inspired, empowered and heard. We hope that through this campaign YMCA can be the vehicle to highlight important issues that young people care deeply about.”
To find out more about YMCA’s Why Not campaign go to www.whynotorg.au