Ironically, since the International Year of Youth in 1985, Australia has been increasingly driven by a culture of tokenism when it comes to youth participation. That year, young people went from being teenagers or adults participating in society as individuals, to being part of a social category that labelled them until they turned 25.
From this came pressure for corporations and government to be seen to be engaging with young people. Tokenistic programs popped up everywhere designed to tick off flashy corporate social responsibility strategies or to fill pages of glossy annual reports with young smiling faces.
But the result has rarely been meaningful participation.
Woodroofe argues that the effectiveness of efforts to engage young people can't be measured by the number of youth engaged, but by the extent to which their involvement leads to actual change. He plans to spend his year in the spotlight not only encouraging more young people to be involved in their communities, but to "refocus youth engagement towards helping young people discover their passions and create change."
Young people don't speak with one voice