Aug 14
Change Agent's Reflection

Reflection of Global Change Agent APAY Regional Training, Global Gathering and YMCA175 Conference.

I have come away from my experience in London with my eyes open, my heart full and my head trying to process everything I have learnt.

But how do you even begin to comprehend the biggest event that you have ever attended. Y175 consisted of 4 days of workshops, panels, plenaries and performers with over 3,000 attendees from 100 plus countries. Well, trying to comprehend everything is still something I am working on, but I can tell you this.

Throughout the conference I was captivated by the words coming out of the mouths of young people. Young people who were younger than me, older than me, from different cultures and ethnicities all sharing their life changing experiences.

I was shaken hearing of young people who have witnessed death, in a way that no person should have to deal with. I was enthralled by a young person who was so proud of who they were as they stood onstage and radiating passion in wanting other young people to feel their sense of worth. My eyes welled up hearing of a young person belittled just because she was a woman and not given the chance to explore her true potential as a human being. And I was taken on journeys into the lives of young people who from negative circumstances birthed positive movements.

I was united with other young people in wanting to make the world a little bit brighter and more connected for anyone, and everyone.

For someone experiencing body image anxiety and physical and mental stress.

For someone wanting to express their voice on something that means so much to them.

For someone where an event that occurred 75 years ago in a previous generation still affects them today.

For someone who wants to offer a young person with a disability inclusion in a game at camp.

For someone who wants a safe platform to say 'I matter and I need the world to know this.'

For someone to talk to another person from the other side of the world and realise we aren't that different after all.

For someone who believes that mental illness shouldn't be shunned but instead supported.

For someone who wants to connect with an ally, who says 'let's work together'.

For someone to realise how fortunate they are and how to pass on that sense of appreciation.

I hope that my fellow delegates have the same inspiration in their hearts as I have gained in mine.

In such a massive event it was comforting to walk through a hall and have a familiar face smile at you and wave their hand. To put their arm around your shoulders and say, 'how's your day going?'. I never fully appreciated the importance of such a simple interaction and the feeling of knowing you mean something to someone, even if you've only known them for a few days. My hope from this realisation is to make other people I encounter feel like they matter. Feel like I take them seriously, like they have a voice, like they are valued and important with all the potential in the world to make a difference.

Young people are to be the change in the world and this can be presented as simply as a smile, or saying thank you. Lighting a fire in someone's heart is the basis of change but there is so much more that needs to be done.

The world can be challenging. From the outside no one knows what's going on in the inside. What makes one human life more valuable than another one? Nothing. We all deserve basic human needs; to be loved and to have connections. Take the time to, wave, say a quick hello or ask 'how are you?' to someone. We can give positive human connections so easily but yet sometimes I don't think we do it enough.

We are all on this this planet for a reason. We might not know what that reason is yet, but hey that's a part of life. But what we do know, is we need to work together as people of the world, across the whole world in every age bracket, profession, ethnicity etc. to make much needed positive change. We can all bring a spark into someone's life, it is just a matter of how themselves, yourself and society decide to fuel the spark, once it has been ignited.

From my experience my spark has been ignited. I vow to continue to nurture my spark with love and fuel it with passion so I can become the change in the world I want to be. 

By Tanya Mischler

Aug 07
Diversity is our greatest strength

By: Georgie Nichol

The opening ceremony of YMCA175 was delivered in the most spectacular fashion! It began with a bold performance opening of the iconic "We Will Rock You" and followed with a staged re-telling of George Williams establishing the YMCA. The French arrived to the stage on bikes, having travelled from Paris with the original Paris basis agreement in hand, and people from all countries sat together in unity, proud to celebrate this incredible organisation.

From the moment we stepped inside the auditorium we could feel the energy and anticipation bouncing off the walls and reverberating around the stage. At one point the excitement bubbled over with an explosive conga line forming in seconds – there were almost immediately too many people and not enough room to dance! The flag bearing ceremony was not unlike the Olympic Games with patriotism alive and well – and yet an understanding and respect that diversity is our greatest strength. The largest collective applause was for the pride and refugee flags which brought emotion to the faces of many and confirmed our true commitment to becoming a more inclusive global organisation - paving the way for others to do the same.

In between inspirational keynotes, there were performances from an uplifting choir, the YMCA Glee club equivalent. Their contagious energy prompted a standing ovation from a crowd of over 3,000 people.

We were then transported back in time to 1844, the very beginning of the YMCAs founding by George Williams. The audience re-discovered an overwhelming respect for our past and the impact the YMCA has had throughout history - including two world conflicts, where support was provided to soldiers on the frontline and their families at home. We are now reaching 58 million people in 119 countries. Our growth has been exponential. The celebration transformed the venue into an electric hub of multiculturalism and connection with excitement zapping through the air giving us all goose bumps.

Young people shared their inspiring stories as activists of social change and social justice. A young woman by the name of Enzaree Kapri from Chicago shared a moving story of how her and her peers were forced to grow far too quickly when gun violence devastated her community. She told us that young people in Chicago are learning to become first responders out of necessity and firmly stated this reality is not acceptable.

"Lawmakers in the US care more about peoples' perceptions of their rights than their actual safety… Stop believing that gun violence is someone else's issue"

In response to the institutionalised racism and gang violence in her community she founded Project Orange Tree, a small but powerful idea that became the motivation for an entire country to raise gun violence awareness. Despite the sobering reality of her keynote – she closed with a message of hope

"I fully intend to change the world" - and we believe her!

Chief Executive of YMCA England and Wales, Denise Hutton affirmed our intergenerational approach to change "You are never too old to learn, never too young to lead".

Patricia Pelton, the first female World YMCA President in our 175 year history, proudly assured us that inclusion and diversity are at the core of who we are. Her recent appointment and humble leadership approach continues to inspire women to seek and achieve global leadership positions.

"We must strive courageously to call out discrimination…we must support the oppressed, marginalised and uprooted, and create a human community of justice with love, peace and reconciliation".

United Nations General Secretary's ENVOY on YOUTH – Jayathma Wickramanayake congratulated the YMCA for creating a diverse community for all. She challenged young people to design bold and creative solutions - address social challenges and in doing so, identify their purpose in this changing world.

She urged us to boldly face and overcome obstacles including gender, racial discrimination and the inequalities that exist across health, education and employment. She conveyed her appreciation of the YMCA's commitment to embed the UN Sustainable Development Goals in our global strategy. And she humbly prompted us to reflect on what a privilege it is to live in Australia, as 56 million live in poverty and conflict settings. Many of us were reminded of the delegates within the Asia and Africa Alliance that were refused visas to attend this event in London, a barrier that Australians rarely have to encounter, and something we must never take for granted.

Climate change surfaced in conversations again and again as the defining issue of our time. The natural disasters that continue to increase in magnitude and frequency exacerbate the vulnerability of already marginalised communities. The actions and inactions of generations past act as the catalyst to mitigate climate change. The heads of young people nodded in agreement to the urgency of this crisis.

Jayathma's message was hopeful in urging us to realise that young people have a knack to turn challenge into opportunities and be the agents of hope that we need right now.

"Young people are not just leaders of tomorrow but leaders of today…"

The same message continued to surface - "a new generation of change makers will build the foundation for a better world. An investment in the potential of young people is an investment in our future."

What a privilege to be part of such an incredible organisation - Happy 175 years to us!

- Georgie Nichol

Jul 12
Reflections of an Old Young Person - by Jason Liddle

​June is my birthday month, and regardless of whatever milestone I encounter, more often than not some time and effort is spent reflecting.

The realisation that in the near future I shall no longer be recognised as a young person by someone else's measure hit me. If you were wondering: no, it's not this year but it's pretty shortly after!

Being part of an organisation and movement which has firmly placed its focus on believing in the power of inspired young people caused feelings of jadedness to creep up. Would I just be cast aside, forgotten about or no longer needed? Had I done anything worthy enough to be titled 'an inspired young person'?

The answers to both questions are futile – time for me to show you why.

June also happens to be the birthday month of the YMCA. 175 years ago, on June 6th 1844, the YMCA movement was founded by a fellow named Sir George Williams. He wasn't titled a sir then, but he was a person experiencing the throes and upheaval caused by the industrial revolution in the surrounds of London.

The stated reason for the YMCA beginning was to provide young men from rural areas travelling to cities for work with low-cost housing in a safe environment, and morphed into a movement providing recreation.

Picture this… a situation where the main things a young person can do, besides working all day on a factory floor, is visiting a pub or brothel. A solution was needed to provide consistent positive influences to young men (organised sport was still developing, and, err, being organised!).

The YMCA was such a solution.

It was a movement founded on providing young men from the country side with a connection to others and to themselves outside of a cycle focused purely on working and spending.

So… how does this apply to an almost 30+ male living in Melbourne, Australia?

Well, it was researching and reflecting on the times which the YMCA was birthed that made me realise this: the basis of this movement, all along, has been connection. Providing individuals an opportunity to connect with others, and themselves, in a meaningful manner which is not always readily available outside of school and sport.

Then it hit me: this connection is definitely not limited to young men in rural areas in south east 1840s England, as evidenced by its rapid growth over the ensuing years.

In the face of industrialisation it wouldn't only be the young who ventured forth to the cities to live, to survive and to connect. All people would be drawn to such areas, as evidenced by the YWCA also springing up at a similar time. Regardless of sex, age or occupation, connection to others would have been sought.

Not much has changed.

Society demands the exact same solution now. Much more so than 1840s London in my view.

Connection is sought in a world filled with social media, AI technology, Netflix and the common catch cry even I heard during my school days of 'the jobs you have aren't even invented yet!'

Almost every single other thing can be achieved pretty much instantaneously but a real connection with other human beings. A face to face experience with real, living, breathing humans who have conversations. Who share stories and create moments remembered throughout a lifetime.

The Y continues to provide this same solution - not only to young people in an arbitrary age bracket, for volunteers or staff members, for those living in the country or city, or however anyone identifies as, but to all.

Which is a pretty heartening thing to an almost jaded, almost 30 year old person.

The Y connects people.

Who knows… maybe the age range will be reviewed and extended. Irrespective of that – I am tremendously grateful for this reflection and invite you to try something similar. Who knows what connections you'll make and share.

Thank you. 

Jason Liddle

May 01
Representing the Y at the UN in New York

​Having the opportunity to attend the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) Youth Forum as a World YMCA representative for both YMCA Australia and YMCA Victoria was an absolute eye-opening privilege. Attending as one of over 900 young/young people related delegates of the Member States, young people demonstrated a resounding commitment to leading progress towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) set for the UN 2030 agenda, in their home nations. The biggest issues that young people faced however, barriers that not only disempowered them but progress towards achieving the SDGs, were growing inaction on climate change and a lack of access to meaningful and fair employment. As António Guterres, Secretary General of the UN said, 'Engaging youth globally is essential for the well-being of the entire world', and while a lot of work has yet to be done for total inclusion, I see the YMCA as a leading organisation in engaging young people in shouldering the weight of progressing towards the SDGs. For this to happen however, we need to ensure that at all levels we are giving young people the opportunity to be heard and for their voices to be acted upon, as the Austrian Youth Delegate said in a whopper power statement, 'Nothing about us without us.'

- Kergen Angel

Nov 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.

Oct 04
Global Gathering Reflection


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

Apr 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!

Mar 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.

amanda gaillis.jpg 

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

Nov 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. 

World YMCA Forum Comms Group.JPG 

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: 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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