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Berry Street’s Y-Change initiative is a social and systemic change platform for young people aged 18 to 30 with lived experiences of socioeconomic disadvantage. As Lived Experience Consultants, the team work to challenge the thinking and practices of social systems through advocacy and leadership.

Across all these issues, we – young people – must be partnered with to create change. As we always say, we know where the cracks are because we fell through them. So, go straight to the source. Stop talking about and at us, talk to and with us.

Y-Change Lived Experience Consultant

The following is an extract from a conversation with our Y-Change Lived Experience Consultants on their work this year, featured in our 2020/21 Annual Report.

Y-Change has discussed the critical need to urgently reimagine the children and family services system. Have you seen progress over the last year?

We’re starting to see a shift towards more meaningful partnerships with young people with a lived experience – from working for us to with us – and our wisdom valued as a legitimate form of expertise. We’ve been working hard towards a reimagined system and although we have a long way to go, we’re proud of what we’ve achieved so far.

Key highlights from this year include:

  • The response we received to our submission to the Victorian Youth Strategy was very positive. It calls for young Victorians with a lived experience to play a central role in driving change. We were pleased to have the opportunity to speak with the Victorian Minister for Youth and senior officials from the Department of Families, Fairness and Housing about the recommendations in our submission.
  • The Family Violence Reform Implementation Monitor’s 2020 report, which identified children and young people as a priority, referenced parts of our policy submission to the Monitor throughout and acknowledged our work as ‘inspiring’. We were also invited to attend the 2020 report briefing. We finally had young people with a lived experience at the table – a huge win.
  • We met with Sandy Pitcher, the Department of Families, Fairness and Housing Secretary, to discuss the meaningful participation of young people in policy and practice and the role of lived experience in systems transformation.

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to rage globally and heavily impact lives in Australia, how has it changed Y-Change's approach? And has it changed your thinking?

COVID-19 has hugely impacted the lives of children and young people. Here at Y-Change, we had to quickly shift our work online, which wasn’t easy. Our work is heavily centred around relationships; the relationships in our team and wider communities. The quality of these relationships has been and continues to be deeply impacted by the pandemic, ultimately affecting our work and how we are with each other. It’s also highlighted how much we value our relationships and how fundamental they are in our daily lives. We have a passion for creating the change we want to see in the world and know that if shifts don’t occur – the cracks in systems only get wider. We can’t accept this, and so it drives us.

What are the most critical issues currently facing young people?

Some of the most critical issues we’ve identified are:

Poverty

  • The Federal Government continues to expect young people to live below the poverty line. To stop the cycle, we desperately need a new support payment. We advocate for the #RaiseTheRate campaign, which calls for a permanent increase to our social security safety net payment, with ongoing increases in line with wage movements and cost of living, to keep people out of poverty.
  • We continue to see the long-term effects of intergenerational trauma and poverty. We must invest in young people who are the circuit breakers – not punish them for the cards they’ve been dealt.

Youth (in)justice

  • Our society still allows children as 10 years old to be incarcerated, despite more than two dozen countries pressuring Australia to #RaiseTheAge of criminal responsibility.
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people are 17 times more likely to be imprisoned than non-indigenous young people - this is unacceptable.

Housing and homelessness

  • We don’t need another inquiry into homelessness, we just need more housing.
  • Although we have extended care here in Victoria through the Home Stretch campaign, children and young people are still falling through the cracks when they leave care.
  • We need specialised housing options for young victim-survivors of family violence.

Family violence

  • We need specialised services for children and young people who are family violence victim-survivors.
  • We still need accurate data and statistics on children and young people experiencing family violence and who have died at the hands of abuse and neglect. This is generally not reported on for children and young people. This needs to change, as children and young people are just as much victims as adults and our voices often go unheard.

More about Y-Change

Berry Street’s Y-Change Lived Experience Consultants work to challenge the thinking and practices of social systems through systems advocacy and leadership.

Y-Change recruits, trains and employs a pool of consultants with lived experiences of intersecting issues of historical exclusion and socioeconomic disadvantage (such as intergenerational trauma, family violence, out-of-home care, homelessness and mental ill-health).

The Consultants draw on the Y-Change methodology to reflect on, integrate and translate their lived experiences into a finely honed skill set. This enables them to provide professional inputs and advice to inform the designers and policymakers of services and systems that impact them, and others like them.

The unique Y-Change model and culture have been rigorously co-created in partnership with young people with lived experience in order to offer an uncommon, professional capability to the market.

Y-Change champions the philosophy of co-production into the design of responses to social issues.