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Youth engagement (Y-Change)

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About Y-Change

Y-Change 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.

Our goals

As a collective, the 2 key aims of Y-Change are to:

  1. Challenge and change society’s perception of young people experiencing disadvantage as ‘limited’ because of their experiences.
  2. Firmly place young people with lived experience of socioeconomic disadvantage at decision-making, policy-making and change-making tables.

We are working towards systems change, social change and a deeper understanding of the social issues that affect young people.

We exist to push the sector beyond giving voice to young people and towards supporting them to access decision-making power.

Y-Change emerged out of presentations at the 2012 Connect for Improving Outcomes for Victoria’s Young People’s conference run by the Youth Affairs Council of Victoria and the Department of Education and Training.

A group of young advocates began a collective with the aim of creating a platform for young people that could affect lasting organisational and social change. The Y-Change founding members were Crystal Moon, Damian Matthews and Lily Graham who worked in partnership with Lauren Oliver, Berry Street’s first Senior Advisor Youth Engagement.

Starting as a pilot in 2016 thanks to the generous support of Igniting Change and the Lord Mayor's Charitable Foundation, the Y-Change initiative works to address the systemic problem of the absence of young people's lived experience at the centre of service design and policy development.

Y-Change is built on the belief that marginalised or systemically oppressed young people are the experts of their own experiences. They have a wealth of knowledge and insight to contribute but are consistently underrepresented at decision-making tables across the board.

Society benefits when young people can influence agenda-shaping and the co-design and production of systems that affect them. This engagement reshapes our service sector, government and the wider community. Most importantly, it strengthens and integrates young people's lived experiences.

Read the Y-Change Pilot Evaluation Report from the University of Melbourne.

We seek to work side-by-side with young people, not on their behalf. We're here to educate and inform. Our mission is to implement more equitable opportunities for young people with a lived experience who seek to use it as a knowledge base in their work.

Y-Change recruits, trains and employs a pool of young Lived Experience Consultants for external consultation on a fee-for-service basis. These are young people with a lived experience of intergenerational trauma who have used community services and are passionate about seeing them radically transformed.

Learn more about our approach to partnering with young people.

Training for our young consultants focuses on:

  • systems leadership
  • influencing, communication and advocacy skills
  • service design and systems change.

Our Lived Experience 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 advice and guidance on designing creative and participatory-focused pathways and solutions.

About the team

We currently have 10 Lived Experience Consultants working as part of our team, all skilled and respected professionals. We keep our pool intentionally small so we can focus on building strong relationships over time, working holistically alongside young people.

The Lived Experience Consultants are supported by two Youth Engagement Coordinators and the Senior Manager Youth Engagement.

Some of the key projects and initiatives we've been part of so far include:

  • Making policy submissions to the Royal Commission into Victoria's Mental Health System, 'Curing the Sickness of the System' and to the Inquiry into Homelessness in Victoria, ‘Homesick: Dreamin’ of a house to call home'.
  • Referenced in the Family Violence Reform Implementation Monitor’s Fourth Report 2020, after meeting with the Monitor in response to a Y-Change policy submission. The submission highlighted the need for greater lived experience advocacy and to transform the family violence service sector to see and treat children and young people as primary victims in their own right. To read the report, go to Family Violence Reform Implementation Monitor.
  • Representation on the Victim Survivors’ Advisory Council (VSAC), a platform for people with lived experience of family violence to influence and shape Victoria's family violence service system reform.
  • Playing a key role in the Commission for Children and Young People’s systemic inquiry into the lived experience of children and young people in the Victorian out-of-home care system. To read the report, go to CCYP: In our own words.
  • Developing Y-Change as an emerging social enterprise that supports social sector organisations, government and the commercial sector to radically shift their youth engagement practices to the next level.
  • Y-Change amplifies voices of young victim survivors of family violence

    Y-Change Lived Experience Consultant, Kirra, reflects on bringing the voices of children and young people being supported by Take Two’s Northern Healing and Recovery Program to Family Safety Victoria’s Inaugural Lived Experience Forum.

  • Y-Change partners with Safe and Equal to support young victim survivors

    Berry Street’s Y-Change team and Safe and Equal recently co-produced a resource guide to help practitioners better support children and young people who are experiencing family violence.

  • Youth suicide report reveals family violence risks for young people being overlooked in Australia

    The fatal impact of family violence and how it contributes to young Australians’ deaths by suicide is downplayed and poorly recorded, hidden by other presenting issues such as harmful substance use, and missing from Australia’s response systems, advocate Tash Anderson and authors of a report released today reveal. Content warning for suicide and family violence.

Y-Change is an essential resource – an asset. We support professionals who are developing products, services or policy solutions for young people who have and continue to experience deeply entrenched socioeconomic disadvantage and systemic oppression.

We are available to Victorian, Australian and international:

  • advisers
  • government bodies
  • policy makers
  • sector organisations
  • service designers
  • training and development teams.

We provide:

Our key client partnerships include the Department of Families, Fairness and Housing, the Commission for Children and Young People and Monash University.

Please get in touch with our team for more information about getting involved with Y-Change, including:

  • inquiries about consultancy work
  • inviting the Lived Experience Consultants to speak with your team or at an event
  • hiring us as workshop and process facilitators.

Alternatively, if you are a young person who is interested in applying to join Y-Change, please express your interest below.