Updated: Jul 1, 2021
Paige Goudie has always known she would end up pursuing a career in leadership or advocacy.
“In primary school I was the school captain, which was a fantastic time and I’ve participated in the SRC for a couple of years too.”
The Year 12 student from Saint Francis de Sales in Leeton says any moment in her life where someone was needed to ‘step up’ she was usually the first to rise to the occasion, something that hasn’t always been easy.
“You get your usual ‘grumblers’ and ‘haters’ but generally I just take it as it comes because it’s not like they were going to be the ones to step up anyway,” she said.
In Term 1 this year, Paige successfully applied to be a part of the 2021 YMCA NSW Youth Parliament and improving mental health for rural communities was high on her agenda.
“Murrumbidgee has sky high rates of suicide compared to cities like Sydney and in fact, Sydney‘s numbers are improving but we are actually getting worse,” she said.
“Seeing people lose their family members and loved ones, really does hit you. And I personally have had people around me who have experienced suicidal thoughts and so I saw the opportunity to do something about it.”
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Paige will join a group of more than 100 other young people from across the state to tackle some of the most significant issues affecting not just young people, but all communities in New South Wales.
Over the past 17 years, YNSW's Youth Parliament program has played an important role in public discourse, with around two thousand participants and six pieces of legislation passed into NSW Law.
In 2011, youth parliamentarians were ahead of the curve, voting to legalise abortion, with a similar bill only passed by the NSW Government in 2019. Again in 2012 youth parliament passed the Same-Sex Marriage Matter of Public Importance bill five years ahead of their senior federal counterparts.
This year’s parliament will be no different, looking to tackle the reform of police powers and de-stigmatizing menstruation, presenting a bill to mandate free sanitary product vending machines in NSW schools and transport hubs.
"The sustained, overwhelming female interest in Youth Parliament suggests that there’s no lack of ambition or interest in exploring a political career among young women."
Paige will be working with the Justice Committee when the Youth Parliament sits in July. She and her fellow committee members will be shaping a bill called the NSW Police Force Re-education Reform Bill.
“We are looking at re-educating police, especially for dealing with vulnerable members of society like people with mental health issues or mental disability and people who are from a non-English speaking background,” she explained.
“And then I am involved with the reform of ‘LEPRA’ (Law Enforcement, Powers and Responsibilities Act 2002), looking at police powers and reforming them to better suit the protection of vulnerable people.”
She is having to do intense research to bring a solid bill to debate and she is finding it eye-opening to see the extent of the problem in the Murrumbidgee.
“I found out that at least 10 per cent of all police calls is to a mental health related crime and normally it ends in confrontation between the police and the suspect through lack of correct training,” she said.
“I’m wanting to implement a MHIT: Mental Health Intervention Team which has been seen to be really effective… to at least one police officer in every area.”
Paige is in good company joining more than 60 other young women who will form almost 70 per cent of the sitting parliament, numbers that shame the NSW Legislative Assembly who this term is just over a third women.
Tahlia Kittos, coordinator of the 2021 program says young women have consistently outnumbered the male representatives for the past decade in youth parliament, which begs the question of why the enormous disparity between youth and senior representation for women.
“It’s wonderful to see such sustained interest in politics from young women and the Y NSW is proud to support their empowerment and voice through the program,” she said.
“Interestingly, the sustained, overwhelming female interest in Youth Parliament suggests that there’s no lack of ambition or interest in exploring a political career among young women. However, you only have to look at the news to see that politics does not always foster an environment that is welcoming, respectful and attractive for women to participate in at a senior level.”
Despite the revelations and accusations of sexual misconduct and sexist behaviour that have plagued senior levels of parliament, Paige is undeterred, saying that the buck will stop with the next generation.
“I feel like it can definitely change but not with the people currently in office; their mindset might not be able to change. But over time, they will be replaced,” she said, frankly.
“It has really opened my eyes to see that it’s not just at one level, it’s happening everywhere, even in our government from the people that are running our country.
“It’s quite scary to think that the people who are making the laws are actually committing crimes. It’s scary to see that lawmakers cannot abide by the laws.”
Pending COVID restrictions in Sydney, Paige will sit for one week in Youth Parliament in July. She is ‘definitely battling a few nerves’ but is excited to experience the process and what the future leaders of Australia can do.