Blog
November 14
Creating a positive relationship with social media

​​Checking our social media feed has become an hourly, if not daily, routine for many. While social media has helped us stay more connected with people all over the world some habits have led to concerns about mental health. Specifically, social media addiction and the potentially negative effects that ‘likes’ may have on self-perception.

“The addiction and compulsion that some teenagers have with not only checking their social media feeds but valuing themselves on the number of likes or followers they have is highly concerning,” says Dr Ryan Harvey of House Call Doctor.

While platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram were created to help foster positive social interactions many studies are finding this is often not the case.

“On an individual level, we are seeing an increasing trend of people finding their moods worsened after using social media,” says Dr Harvey.

Most of us open our social media apps almost religiously, checking first thing in the morning and last thing at night. We do this expecting to see and feel something wonderful or new, however the opposite often occurs.

“When you look at the Facebook or Instagram page of someone else you are seeing only the highlight reel of their life,” says Dr Harvey. While they may be posing on a holiday and looking blissfully happy we don’t know what is going on behind the photo.

“This is particularly dangerous for younger more vulnerable generations as they may struggle with identifying this and compare their lives to the highlight reel of another.”
While there are some potentially negative side effects there are ways to create a positive relationship with social media:

1. Schedule time
“Individuals need to consider how much time they are spending on social media and whether that time is impacting their lives,” says Dr Harvey.
If you think you may be checking your social media feeds too often scheduling specific times may be helpful. “Pick times such as the bus ride home from school or work where you generally would not be doing other activities or missing out on the ‘real world’,” says Dr Harvey.

2. Remove the app from your phone
“Having access to Facebook, Twitter and Instagram at just tap of your phone screen can increase the temptation to ‘quickly’ check,” says Dr Harvey.
As we all know this ‘quick look’ can easily turn into hours of scrolling newsfeeds. Deleting the apps from your phone forces you to login via an internet browser and this may help limit temptation to check regularly.

3. Think before you post
We hear this all the time but it’s true, think twice before you post anything on social media. Consider the pros and cons of posting certain things and the possibility of offending anyone or having your post taken out of context.

4. Be selective about your followers
If you find that certain accounts make you angry, sad, jealous or disappointed unfollow them. “Following celebrities on social media can easily have a negative influence,” says Dr Harvey. “Their lavish lifestyles are not realistic and can cause disappointment and envy.”
Similarly unfollow and block any users that may make you feel bad about yourself or post negative comments on your feed. This may result in losing likes but your account will be more protected and less susceptible to internet trolls.

5. Post it later
“Taking time out of the present moment to post on social media is concerning,” says Dr Harvey. “We often see full tables of people taking pictures of their food and posting them instead of talking, eating their meal and enjoying each other’s company.”
Stop letting your food go cold as you choose between Valencia and Juno, enjoy your meal and the company. If you need to get a shot take the picture and worry about the filter and caption later.

Written by: Dr Ryan Harvey of House Call Doctor.

October 04
Global Gathering Reflection

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I was lucky to have the chance to attend the YMCA change agent global gathering, held in Setubal, a town about an hour out of Lisbon in Portugal. Young people (aged between 19 and 34) from all regions of the world came together, with the exception of Canada and the US. It was a chance to re-connect with some familiar faces from the regional training in Japan and get to know another 120 odd energised young people. 
 
It occurred to me pretty early on, just how lucky we are to come from a developed country and even more so, Australia. Especially when I learned, despite rigorous preparations there were change agents that were not able to obtain Visa’s to enter Portugal, thus denied the experience. As a big traveler myself I’m so used to wandering off to whichever country I please, without any significant barriers or fear of crossing borders. This reality is something I must continually remind myself not to take for granted.
 
This gathering brought a real excitement from the very beginning. When you put young people together from countries like Nigeria, Palestine, Russia, Ukraine, South Africa, Armenia, Serbia, Myanmar, Finland, Zimbabwe, Mongolia, Madagascar, France…(it goes on - there were 49 countries) there’s this kind of contagious energy, it really feels like your about to be part of something pretty special. I had never experienced this scale of social diversity in my life and I’m embarrassed to say I learned my geography is quite pathetic. There were some countries I wasn’t even certain of which continent they were from… (Like where in the name is Easter Island?!) And yes there really are people living in Madagascar, turns out it’s not just a DreamWorks movie! 
 
The 10 days were amazing - however exhausting at times and not without challenges. The schedule was jam-packed, you were continually thrust in front of new faces, cultures and changing environments. You needed to be always on from about 8am until 10pm every day. You also had to consciously remind yourself to step outside of your comfort zone, away from familiar faces to get to know as many people as possible in order to truly embrace the experience. Living conditions were very cosy, with only a few places to escape and ponder ones thoughts and digest the days learning. On the upside everyone was in the same boat - and there’s nothing like overcoming adversity in order to bring people together, mission accomplished YMCA!
 
Our days consisted of large group discussions, smaller workshops, excursions to local communities including community service, constant cross cultural learnings and exposure. We visited Parliament in Lisbon, which was an incredible historical building. I can safely report politicians in Portugal appeared to be just as slippery as ours at home. They did the same predictable somersaults and backflips, unable to provide simple answers to simple questions. One minister detoured for so long she finished up looking confused herself. 
 
With 150 young people from all different backgrounds I was impressed by how few topics were left untouched. We delved into a diverse range of global issues, always remaining conscious of cultural sensitivities. Our Why Not campaign issues were right on the mark, clearly relevant to young people across the board, mental health in particular repeatedly surfaced in discussions. We discussed unemployment, sustainability and climate change, human rights (sustainable development goals), civic engagement, immigration and social integration, economic instability, terrorism, political extremism, radicalisation, issues of inclusion/exclusion, social, cultural and sexual diversity. 
 
It is impossible to share the depths of all discussions had, but I do want to mention some particular highlights and eye opening learnings for me personally. 
 
 - Hearing from one change agent, whom had migrated to a neighboring country due to conflict and political instability and founded a new YMCA. She proudly noted this YMCA had grown from 20 members to well over a hundred in 5 years, serving a community who was in desperate need of familiarity, refuge and support. 
 
- Discussing the challenges of youth empowerment for young people in parts of Africa. Here, there are countries that culturally abide by respecting your elders without exception. The young people in these countries are at times without a voice entirely, silenced out of respect - yet they still appear overtly optimistic they can make positive change.  
 
- I learned of what’s described as the “African Elephant”. In many parts of Africa, people do not have the freedom to outwardly express their sexuality. This law directly conflicts with the YMCA mission of inclusion and is a frontline reality in parts of Africa every day.  I was saddened to hear that there are young people in our world that are legally prohibited from expressing their sexuality and who they want to be in this world. This was yet another reminder to be grateful to have Australia as my home.  
 
- There were many young people that had travelled far and wide to attend this gathering. That had overcame financial strains, social obstacles and physical challenges to be there. One amazing change agent stands out to me in particular for her bravery, she is almost 100% blind and attended without an aid or designated support person. Her courage gave me strength for the entire week.  
 
- We gained many new cultural perspectives as such a diverse group of young people living side by side. The rich history of Easter Island stands out as something to remember, one of the most remote inhabited islands in the world. The Rapa Nui people were the earliest inhabitants over a thousand years ago. Only 45 years ago, their people were enslaved and almost completely wiped out. The change agent from Easter Island lived and breathed this culture, he provided a passionate account of ancestral stories, songs and dances in full costume (see pic). His life ambition is to share the history of his people with the rest of the world, to ensure Easter Island stays on the map and its future is protected. 
 
These change agents bravely stood up and called out some painful realties. They did so whilst remaining loyal and proud of the counties they’d come to represent. They spoke with such humility and courage, optimistic and motivated to provoke change and proudly connected to their YMCA’s. They are invested in getting young people off the streets, feeding the homeless, tackling the rapid rates of suicide and calling out discrimination and violence. Some are committed purely to providing basic human rights - including water, food, safety and shelter. This gave me an unbelievable perspective of what our organisation is capable of on a global scale. The YMCA really is a lifeline for more people than I could’ve ever imagine.  
 
 
I have enormous respect for the World YMCA, whom ran the entire week. They are a tiny team, running a huge operation on a shoestring, responsible for bringing the world of YMCA’s together. 
The world Y staff attended the entire 10 days, including the General Secretary Johan, our own Andrew Mckenzie and Romulo Dantas, whom we call 007 of change agents because of his relentless commitment to the change agent program and young people in general. I saw a lot of our office in their efforts, tirelessly trying to facilitate cooperation and collaboration. Their team graciously welcomed ongoing feedback, willing to change and always find ways to do things better. General Secretary Johan noted “We have a unity now that we have not seen for a long, long time” they too, like us have their sights set on the value of working as one. 
 
 
The biggest learning for me is hard to describe, it relates to a shift in my perspective. There are people in the world that are experiencing war, discrimination and violence everyday single day. People that live without access to safe water and sanitation and are without a roof over their head. I met some young people that see this first hand in their country far more often than they should. Sometimes in the comfort of the developed world, the nature of these issues can be too big, too overwhelming. It’s easier to compartmentalise problems of this scale and put them somewhere else in our minds. It’s easier sometimes to tell ourselves that these people are different to us, because it puts some distance between the discomfort that nags at our conscience. 
The greatest learning for me was the reminder that these people are no different to us at all. The young people that flee one country in order to live a safer existence elsewhere are just the same as young people battling mental health issues in Australia. They are resilient and they are brave. Perhaps their resilience has been tested more than some, but they still love music, wear jeans, laugh and enjoy a drink or two, just the same as any young person. When we distance ourselves from the extremism of these issues, the pain we know exists but seems too farfetched for us to comprehend, we inadvertently distance ourselves from the solutions we can offer the world, the solutions that sit readily in our hands. This was the biggest learning for me. Empowerment is contagious, the small steps made by many of us is the only way the big things can change.  
 
I saw many parallels throughout the week relevant to our Fit For Purpose journey. YMCA Europe’s General Secretary said “Europe’s capacity is huge, but we are not organised”. They too face the same challenges we do - if only we could ALL just get organised! We are the biggest youth organisation in the world. Our widespread global footprint is our greatest weakness as well as our greatest strength. Identifying commonality is how we embark on the path to unity. Unity is the only way we can unleash our collective potential.
 
I’m incredibly grateful to of had this opportunity. Be the change, Communicate the vision, Inspire action. That’s the job of a change agent.  I had the privilege of meeting some incredible young people undeniably committed to this cause.
 
 
 
 
Georgie Nichol  
 

May 23
4 Myths about young people debunked

"Young people are avocado-eating, latte-sipping work bludgers. They have never had it better and should stop their whinging!" It's a rhetoric that's hurting our young people and everybody else too. Soon we will be relying on this so-called egocentric, lazy generation to provide for the growing group of pensioners. (There are 4.5 Australians for every pensioner. In 2055 that number will be down to 2.7 Australians.)

As Joe hockey once pondered: "How are our children going to be able to afford the future?"   

Myth #1: Young people don't want to work.

This is simply not true. Young people want more work but the work is just not Young people.jpgavailable.

  • -   In the 1970's one in thirty young people reported being underemployed. Now it's about one in six. Underemployment has risen for all age groups but much further and faster for young people.
  • -   Work is more casual and insecure than ever before. Young people want full time, secure jobs like the ones their parents enjoyed.

 

Myth #2: Young people change jobs all the time!

Also not true! Young people change jobs at exactly the same rate as 20 years ago. It's old people who are changing jobs more often than ever before!

 

Myth #3: If you want to buy a house young people should just save their money, not spend it on smashed avocado and $4 coffees.

They'll have to do a bit more than that to be able to afford a house. Not only have house prices skyrocketed over the past 20 years, the cost of education has too.

 

Myth #4: Young people are lazy

Really?? Young people drink less, commit less crimes, fight less, watch less television, read more, volunteer more, use less drugs, smoke less than you.

We have a responsibility to set our young people up for success, not be demeaning to them. Perpetuating these myths about young people entrenches an ever growing inter-generational divide between the old and the young.

For more information about inter generational divide, please read GENERATION LESS by JENIFFER RAYNER. It's great!

Let me know what you think by commenting below or email me at steven.dupon@ymca.org.au

April 21
What you need to know about Generation Z

At the YMCA we believe in the power of inspired young people. And when we say young people, we mean 12 to 22 year olds. They're dubbed 'Generation Z'. Born between 2010 and 1995 it's the generation that follows the "Millennial" generation.

values of a generation img.fw.pngGeneration Z is the first generation brought up with technology from birth. For this generation technology is a given and a tool. They are empowered by it, not obsessed with it. They will use technology, not be consumed by it. As a result culture will increasingly be made and broadcast using technology.

As this generation grows up in the wake of the recession they are told continuously that robots and automation will disrupt employment and there will no work for them. They are forced to think entrepreneurially and will seek training from a young age to create their own jobs. This uncertainty contributes to a sense of anxiety about the future.

"Generation Z are empowered by technology, not consumed by it"

Generation Z highly values education but not in an institutional way. Work is specialised and not easily covered in generalist degrees. Information and knowledge is freely available through the internet and Generation Z will increasingly be self-educated. This leads to increased equality for anyone with internet access. Access to these tools will provide equal opportunities to achieve in life.

0900722 538.jpgThe world will be increasingly open-source and ownership will gradually disappear. They will be less likely to buy a house, own patents, own Intellectual Property (IP). Value doesn't necessarily sit with owning a product or piece of information, it sits with how you use it; the service that derives from it.

Globalisation will continue to be a key feature shaping this generation. They will expect global approaches to social and environmental issues. To achieve this Generation Z will collaborate more than any previous generation. This global collaborative mindset will encourage this generation to make a difference and solve the problems previous generation have burdened them with. Generation Z will be activists and work collaboratively towards a more sustainable world.

All power to them!

March 30
YMCAs across Australia appoint young people as CEOs for the Day

​It’s interesting that there are renewed calls for a Federal Minister for Youth here in Australia. Well, tomorrow, Friday 31st March, at the beginning of National Youth Week, YMCAs right across Australia are being “taken over” by young people.

A stellar young person, Amanda Gaillis (pictured below), will step into my role as National CEO. While she’s at it, she will also shadow the Victorian Minister for Families, Communities and Youth Affairs, the Hon Jenny Mikakos. Amanda is currently the Youth Governor of YMCA Victoria’s Youth Parliament.

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I know all of the ‘regular’ CEOs and YMCAs involved are looking forward to truly listening to what these young people say is important to them, and helping them take action.

This is because we believe in the power of inspired young people. Young people really are our key to changing the world. Always have been, always will be.

The young CEOS who have been selected to lead for the day have told us they are passionate about a range of issues affecting both children and young people including unemployment, homelessness, youth suicide and youth mental health issues, safety, obesity, disability, disadvantage and affordable, accessible training courses for young people.

What will I be doing while Amanda is being the National CEO? Lucky me, I’ll be spending the day with inspiring young people, starting with a breakfast meeting with one of my mentors Lachlan Headlam, who was the 2016 YMCA National  Young CEO of the Day. I’ll attend the Victoria Youth Summit as an observer.

I really am so excited.  Visit our website to see all of the young people who will be CEOs for the day in their YMCAs across Australia for a day during National Youth Week and please let me know if this is something you would be interested in doing also. We can never have enough inspired young people in our midst.  Josh Caratelli Game Developer, Winner of Triple J’s 25 under 25 award, Indi Clarke, Manager of the Koorie Youth Council, Carla Steele, CEO of the Day at YMCA Whittlesea, and I’ll finish the day with a Skype call with Madeline Price: Founder and Director of the One Woman Project

November 08
Walking side by side with young people

 

I've been thinking about seeking a young mentor ever since I heard the challenge from the National President of YMCA Australia Andrew Smith in a forum in Melbourne last month. Some call this 'reverse mentoring'.

Millennials – typically those born in the 1980s to early 2000s – now make up the world's largest generation ever. They're considered a creative and socially minded cohort, but also one inheriting a world facing some seriously wicked problems.

Smart organisations recognise they need young people

Smart organisations recognise they need to better understand, engage and connect with young people, and Andrew Smith's call was specifically to YMCA leaders as we work together to bring to life our belief in the power of inspired young people.   However, it's a relevant challenge for all.

Young people can mentor Gen X and Baby Boomers

Well, last week I found a mentor, while attending a forum of YMCA leaders from around the world in the Czech Republic! 

Taylor Crockett, 24, from Scotland, speaks at a million miles an hour, and both shares and reflects our global vision to positively impact (empower) 90 million young people in the next five years –tripling our current reach. 

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That's Taylor in the red shirt, together with other YMCA communicators from Italy, Spain, England, India, Australia and Brussels.

"I reckon we can do that," I heard him say.  This was not long after he'd shared how one of his first jobs with his YMCA was to produce their Annual Report.  Taylor's previous experience had been in managing and working in night clubs.

He suggested to his CEO that they do away with printing the reports, which honestly, for all the work that goes into them, many end up gathering dust.  He also suggested that the Y's young people produce the report.  His CEO trusted him, created space for their young people to lead, and the results were stunning.

Produced for less than $150 using a range of free or low cost applications and freelancers sourced from sharing sites, it was viewed 15,000 times in its first month online.  You can view it here .

I was impressed that a young person without formal experience or training in communications, had been able to effect change and demonstrate leadership in such a short space of time.  It struck me that maybe a young mentor might be standing before me.   

What might 'reverse mentoring' look like?

"What does that mean?" Taylor inquired when I asked if he was up for it. 

"It means I think I can learn a lot from you about how to better connect with young people and help the YMCA at the same time," I told him. "You can help me keep up with what's new and what matters to young people."

"I was thinking I could learn a lot from you about strategic communications," he countered. "I just do things as they fall in front of me, I'd like to learn how to plan our communications better."

"Sounds like we could help each other out."

Later, I learned more about Taylor, and I'm even more impressed with him, and his local YMCA. His story is not mine to share, but it's a powerful one.  I couldn't help but feel like the stars had lined us up.

Generations walking side by side together

If we are to be an organisation that truly reflects our belief, then why wouldn't more of our current senior leadership seek to better understand what young people want, need and can do to help us?  Perhaps this is one way our generations can walk side by side together to create a better future for both today and the future.

"It only takes 5-10% of a population to change the direction of others"

Carsten Sudhoff, ex Chief Executive of Human Resources at the World Economic Forum, told the World Alliance of YMCA's Strategic Forum that it only "takes 5-10% of a population to change the direction of others."

The YMCA, founded by a 22 year old in England over 170 years ago, still believes in the power of inspired young people, to change the world for the better.  Always has. Always will.

I'm ready to walk side by side with young people like Taylor.  What about you? 

About the author

  • Dianne McDonald is Executive Manager of Communications at YMCA Australia. She was one of four Australians, Peter Burns, CEO YMCA Victoria, Stephen Bendle YMCA Australia, and Andrew McKenzie, World YMCA,  and a New Zealander, Peter Fergusson, CEO YMCA Auckland, who attended the World YMCA Our Way Strategy Delivery Summit in Litomysl, 28 October- 3 November.   E: dianne.mcdonald@ymca.org.au T: @DiFromtheY Linked In: diannemcdonald

You can read more about the forum via the excellent Blue Music Blog from World YMCA Secretary General Johan Eltvik.  

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September 27
United Nations Sustainable Development Goals

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By Stephen Bendle
Today, 27 September 2016 marks one year since the launch of the United Nations 2030 agenda for Sustainable Development. Last year in New York United Nations transitioned from their millennial development goals which covered the period from 2000 to 2015 and committed to 17 goals for sustainable development of our planet.

The YMCA is clearly well-positioned to impact many of these goals and are already acting through our change agents. The opportunity to align our work, around the world, with the objectives, goals and actions of governments, organisations and not for profits is profound.

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I have tried the new Windows 10 App called SWAY to pull together a multi-media chalk board on the SDG’s. 
Here is the link. Hope it works for you.

September 19
Fair Australia: Social Justice and the Health Gap

Blog 19 September 2016

This week as I have been driving around Melbourne I have taken the opportunity of listening to the dulcet tones of Professor Sir Michael Marmot as he delivers four orations as part of the ABC 2016 Boyer Lecture series titled: Fair Australia: Social Justice and the Health Gap.

I have only listened to the first two so far but I am enthused enough to contemplate what it means for the YMCA.

Marmot has devoted his career to the Social Determinants of Health (SDoH) which are the conditions in which people are born, grow, work, live, and age, and the wider set of forces and systems shaping the conditions of daily life.[1]

Every sentence, discussion, claim or plea he makes is evidence based and grounded in case study after example after research thesis. His calm, accented delivery style is mesmerising and especially compelling as I drive around suburbs of Melbourne where the postcode is a signpost to the health of the people in the street.

In Australia the SDoH are a key platform for the Governments Closing the Gap strategy[2] and the YMCA is a partner in the Social Determinants of Health Alliance.[3]

Marmot explains that:

Health and inequalities in health are closely linked to the conditions in which we raise our children, the education we get, the neighbourhoods in which we live, the work we do, whether we have the money to make ends meet, our social relationships, our care for the elderly. In short, all the things that matter to us day to day and in the arc of our lives influence health. And these conditions of life that matter to us are strongly influenced by the decisions that societies make and, indeed, global decisions that influence our social environment.

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Last week the latest report into Australia's Health[4] was also released. Among the most startling of the Figures was the one showing the social gradient in Australian mortality

The Report shows that 20% of Australians living in the lowest socioeconomic areas in 2014–15 were 1.6 times as likely as the highest 20% to have at least two chronic health conditions, such as heart disease and diabetes

Regarding the perennial question that is often politically motivated or associated with cries of "nanny state" he discusses the paradox between individual lifestyle choice and the role of a civil society in managing its social systems. He explains that smoking, drinking, unhealthy patterns of eating and exercising, and obesity are indeed causes of ill-health but the real issue is the "causes of the causes".

Stephen Bendle Blog 2.jpg​Education levels, employment opportunities, public transport infrastructure, school funding and other social structures are strong indicators of health inequalities. So are our social systems that we all tolerate that allow the greatest number of gambling machines, fast-food outlets and fresh food deserts to occur in our most disadvantaged neighbourhoods.

So what does this mean for the YMCA? How can we really impact social systems?

The answer is we are already doing it.

At many YMCA's around the country we are already changing the social system that we provide for the communities in which we operate. Many are changing the food and drink options available to patrons and thereby changing what is "normal" when visiting a YMCA. We know that purchasing patterns are changing and we are having a real impact on the health and wellbeing of people.

Our childcare centres are providing quality early learning opportunities that are maximising the potential of young people. In a fascinating example of the social gradient[5] of inequality that exists in nearly all communities, Marmot explained how people at the lower end are less likely to read to their children and put less value on hugging their 3yo children than those at the higher end of the social gradient. The YMCA continues to provide a nourishing environment for all children wherever they are on that curve.

We are empowering young people and inspiring them with opportunities to be heard. The ability to have a voice is a key pathway to improving a person's circumstances and helping to break the social, community or family binds that perpetuate social conditions.

The YMCA is slowly but surely impacting on those factors that contribute to the causes of the causes of poor health and we should continue to be mindful of the social gradient of inequality.

And we will do more.

[1] http://www.who.int/social_determinants/en/

[2] http://www.health.gov.au/internet/publications/publishing.nsf/Content/oatsih-healthplan-toc~determinants

[3] http://socialdeterminants.org.au/

[4] http://www.aihw.gov.au/publication-detail/?id=60129555544

[5] https://theconversation.com/social-determinants-how-class-and-wealth-affect-our-health-64442

July 04
Inspiring young people to get active: What we could learn from the United Kingdom

By Stephen Bendle, Executive Manager Advocacy – YMCA Australia, @sbendle1

Last week I had a wonderful opportunity to listen to Jennie Price, CEO of Sport England, talk about the inspiring work they are doing to promote physical activity, especially among inactive populations, females and CALD communities.

She is in the envious position of being able to manage funds to the UK sporting sector (not the elite) and is insisting that at least 25% of the £300 million available is directed exclusively towards inactive people rather than just accommodating facilities and services for those who are already active.  Their vision focuses on providing opportunities for all people to be physically active ­- not just the fit and talented. They are also backing up their efforts with solid research and evaluation.

A focus on children and young people is central to their efforts. They have dedicated funding for getting children and young people active from the age of five, including a new fund for family-based activities. They are also offering to train at least two teachers in every secondary school in England to help them better meet the needs of all children, irrespective of their level of sporting ability.

Jennie described the challenges of engaging with the traditional sporting sector, previously focused on facilities and success for elite athletes, and bringing audiences to watch rather than play sport.  It is fair to say they haven't often looked at ways to get the inactive active or playing their sport.

Probably the most inspiring part of the presentation was about their very successful campaign This Girl Can. 

Do yourself a favour and take 1m and 29seconds out of your life to check out this video.

While in Australia we are able to match the production quality in our own efforts such as the Girls Make Your Move campaign there is a huge gap between how the British campaign connects to real opportunities for girls to get active in their communities, Where we provided a few click through links, Sport England have provided a coordinated pathway for females to explore opportunities to be active.

Their own social media campaign has Hit. The. Spot.  Check their website and admire the pluckiness of the poster images.  There's Here's an example – and it's not the pluckiest!

girls on the move.jpg 

Which all points to the opportunities we have to address the levels of inactivity in our backyard – especially among children and young people – as we know that the best time to create healthy habits and outcomes in life is when we are young. Just imagine what more healthy, active and inspired young people could do for the world!

We need more than great videos. We need a National Physical Activity Action Plan. Like the one that the Heart Foundation, the YMCA and many other organisations have been calling for over the last 12 months. You can read it here.

Jennie Price said that talking about sport in Australia "was like talking about ice to the Eskimos". However, she left a great impression on the audience and inspired everyone to call for more action on getting the health, sport and recreation sector more focused on getting the inactive, active.

June 24
Time for a Sugar Tax

Stephen Bendle is Executive Manager of Advocacy at YMCA Australia @sbendle1

So public health and prevention is finally on the political agenda as we countdown to the 2 July election.

Labor has committed to investing $300 million in health promotion and disease prevention to address the rising rate of chronic disease.

The Greens have announced support for a 20% tax on sugary drinks.  Announcing the policy, Greens leader Dr Richard Di Natale lamented the fact that so many of our Australian children were overweight or obese and that 30% of the added sugar that kids consumed come from sweetened drinks.

The latest ABS data shows that 14-18yo males consume an average 22 teaspoons of sugar per day, while the top 10% of male teenagers have at least 38 teaspoons of free sugars per day. Sugar sweetened beverages were the major source of sugar.[1]

A recent study found that a 20% rise in the price of sugary drinks and flavoured mineral water would save 1600 lives over the next 25 years.  It would also prevent nearly 4500 heart attacks and over 1000 strokes[2]. Not only would this lead to better health for Australians but also significant savings to our healthcare system.  In addition, the parliamentary budget office has estimated that a sugary tax would raise more than $500 million in revenue each year which under the current plan would be quarantined to be spent on additional health initiatives especially for children and young people.

Some would say the tide is turning on the issue of taxing sugary drinks.  Already many countries such as Hungary and Mexico have taxes in place.  The United Kingdom will introduce the tax in 2018 and the fifth largest city in the United States, Philadelphia has just voted in a sugar tax.

Despite the "nanny state" hyperbole from some commentators we all know that most successful public health initiatives in Australia in the last 50 years have involved some government intervention either through regulation, legislation or taxation.  This includes tobacco control, alcohol consumption, road safety, vaccination, medication and cancer prevention.

Obesity and its related outcomes such as diabetes is one of our most pressing public health issues facing this country and many others.  The impact on our children and young people is likely to be the most profound.

The YMCA continues to stand up for the health, well-being and safety of children and young people.  A better future depends on the ideas, energy and voice of young people – and we need to do all we can to create an environment in which they can thrive.

Some YMCA youth parliament students in WA recently made their views known this way.

It is for these reasons that YMCA will continue to advocate for the introduction of a sugar tax on sugar sweetened beverages and for all political parties to address not only the health care system at the bottom of the cliff but put sufficient preventative fences at the top.

[1] ABS - http://tinyurl.com/j2996mx 

[2] The Age - http://tinyurl.com/h7v2vzp

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