Youth Parliament nominations close on 19 October 2018

Do you know someone who would make a great Member of the next Youth Parliament? Encourage them to apply now, applications close on the 19 October 2018.

The Office for Disability Issues would like to see more disabled young people taking advantage of this opportunity. To find out what being a Member of NZ’s Youth Parliament might involve, we spoke to Britnee Tapara.

Meet Britnee Tapara, 2016 Member of NZ’s Youth Parliament (MYP)

Britnee Tapara was a representative in NZ’s 2016 Youth Parliament, having received a nomination from her local MP Chris Bishop MP, who was himself a youth MP. At the time of nomination, Britnee was at secondary school in Lower Hutt. She was already enjoying success as a Paralympic equestrian athlete, a singer, a gaming enthusiast and an artist.

During her time in the Youth Parliament, Britnee campaigned to improve services for young people with mental health problems. “I had an interest in the youth mental health system after being diagnosed with depression and anxiety in early 2015. I wanted to understand why the most potentially helpful support services, such as public counselling, had such long waiting times and why mental health services had been designed  as ‘the ambulance at the bottom of the cliff’.

“I learnt that because services were prioritised towards the lower number of highest-risk people, that meant that the many people with lower levels of need weren’t able to access the help that they needed at the right time. Sometimes, that meant some people’s levels of need were edging upwards. Britnee says “I had no idea that Youth Parliament existed before. I was not interested in politics and didn’t know how NZ’s government worked.

“I approached Chris Bishop in mid-2015 with my questions and concerns about youth mental health and he suggested I write a submission for the role of Hutt South’s Youth Parliamentarian. Although I understood little about politics or government, I knew that I wanted to help people. Once I was selected, the training program taught me everything I needed to know about the proceedings, the structure of government, how it worked, how bills passed by the committee were debated…

“You get to indicate your preferences about what you want to participate in. Once I saw the mock bill on accessibility equality of digital media, I knew that I needed to speak to it in the House. I was delighted when I was selected to speak: it helped me find my voice and meant that the voices I was representing were heard. That speech became what I was best known for in the Youth Parliament.

“You don’t have to know about politics, as long as you want to help people. You will have the opportunity to represent people in your community and the wider population who can relate to your experiences. Do not shy away from this opportunity because of your diversity, let your diversity help you find your unique perspective which will allow more voices to be heard."

Britnee is now studying Software Design at Victoria University and continues to enjoy horse-riding, singing, gaming, art and politics as her studies allow.

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