Student brings youth voices to the table
Tabitha Anderson of Epping Secondary College is a leader who believes in elevating youth voice and harnessing the thoughts and opinions of young people to make positive changes in her community.
For the past four years she has worked as a senior youth advocate with Whittlesea Council across multiple project teams. Tabitha is a key contributor to the Youth Equity Strategy Program (YES), providing councillors with youth input on new policies or plans, such as proposals for parks and land development. She is also a member of the Mayor’s Youth Cabinet, working with the council’s Baseline for Young People – a team providing programs, events and projects for local youth. Through Baseline Tabitha has been a mentor for young people and contributor to the Rainbow Project, a leadership development and support network for youth who identify as LGBTIQA+ and those that support them.
This year while volunteering at community radio station JOY 94.9 FM, Tabitha recognised the need for a youth-focused radio program in their weekly schedule. She was given the green light by the program manager to start Youth in Control, a weekly show run for LGBTIQA+ youth and their allies. Tabitha is a producer and co-presenter, and uses her segment
Tabitha Talks to delve into news and events important to young people.
Tabitha is a member of her school’s Principal’s Student Advisory Committee, and president of the Student Representative Council, where she is dedicated to ensuring student voice and opinions are recognised at all levels, including the school Board. Tiffany Greenhill, former Senior Years Leading Teacher at Epping Secondary College, says that Tabitha ‘demonstrates great commitment and passion in everything she does – she is genuine and respectful, and a committed and diligent young leader’.
The City of Whittlesea named Tabitha their 2017 Young Citizen of the Year. The VCAA sat down with Tabitha to hear more about her many leadership roles.
How have you ensured the ideas and opinions of students are heard at the highest levels of your school?
I believe that students should be able to have a say in the decisions that are made for them, as well as an insight into how their school is run. When I started school at Epping Secondary College I saw a need to have a student presence on the school’s council. After joining the Student Representative Council, I lobbied for this inclusion at my school and was successful.
As the 2017 College Captain I feel privileged to sit on our school council with full voting rights – the same as a staff member or parent. I use my position to bring the voices and opinions of my peers to the table during the school council meetings, using my vote to represent the needs of students when important decisions are being made.
You have continued to champion the importance of youth voice through your work with Whittlesea Council. What have you helped shape through the Youth Equity Strategy (YES) Program?
My involvement with YES has been as a youth consultant within the local council. Alongside other young people from my community, we meet with specific departments, such as Parks and Land, to give them youth input on new policies or plans. During my early involvement with YES we advocated for the South Morang train line to be extended to Mernda, which is currently in the planning and development stage.
My work with YES is very fulfilling, because youth are not often involved or invited to have a say in policy development and planning of public spaces within local government. I am grateful to be part of the conversation, and to bring the views of youth to the people who make the decisions.
You are passionate about youth LGBTIQA+ rights, representation and support within your local community. Can you tell us about your involvement with the Rainbow Project?
The Rainbow Project aims to tackle homophobia and transphobia within the Whittlesea Community. Through my involvement with the project team I have organised and run events, including an event for the International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia (IDAHOBIT). The event encouraged young people from the community to get together in a safe and fun environment, as well as learn about the Rainbow Project. We organised a DJ and fun activities for youth to get involved in, like a photo booth and cupcake decorating. I really enjoyed talking to my peers during the event, and sharing the positive messages we have been championing for the Rainbow Project.
We have also developed a training package, which we presented to council to be considered for use in local schools. The training package will encourage students to understand that everyone should be accepted for who they are, regardless of their age, race, religion, gender identity or sexuality. Being an active part of the Rainbow Project and mentoring the other young people within the team is rewarding, as it allows me to help more and more young people become a stronger part of our local community.
What led you to start a show on JOY 94.9?
My involvement at JOY 94.9 originally started from a youth scholarship radio course, where I learned all aspects of the radio production process. A group of us noticed there was only one show on the entire program that was youth led and produced, and we felt that youth were being underrepresented. I worked with my team to pitch another youth-focused show to the program manager, which is how Youth in Control was born.
Youth in Control is all about helping young same-sex attracted and gender diverse people and their allies, as well as talking about youth related news and events occurring within the community. I am a co-presenter, and produce a weekly segment,
Tabitha Talks, where I present news that matters to the young people of Melbourne.
What are your plans for the future?
I’m planning on completing an Arts/Law degree at Melbourne University. I’m interested in public speaking and would love to major in international law so that I could work with refugees.