Part 1: Behind the scenes with a Youth MP – “It was time to make a difference”

The notification came electronically. I’m not sure what you think, but I find it incredibly strange receiving big news like that: in the form of an email. No longer is there the suspense, the thrill of opening an envelope directed to me, yes me!

No.

Instead it is quick, immediate — almost like a yes, or a no, rather than a possibly, maybe, if only, could it be…

Ahhh, technology. It’s the source of so much endeavour and entrepreneurship, and at the same time, takes away small aspects of the ‘old times’ — takes away some of our former nostalgic pleasures. Although I must say, it didn’t really matter to me how it had been delivered when I read the word ‘Congratulations’ at the top of the page of an email sent to me by the honourable Simon O’Connor, MP for the Tamaki Electorate. It read ‘Thank you for your application to be my Youth Member of Parliament for Youth Parliament 2016 representing Tamaki. It gives me great pleasure to let you know that your application was successful.’

First reaction: Mmmmmm. Wow.

Second reaction: I may or may not have broken my mother’s eardrum, jumped on a chair and chanted for five minutes straight. Ok, it might have been more like ten…

For those of you who are unaware of what Youth Parliament is all about — I’ll give you the lowdown.

Put simply, it’s two days during July 2016 where I, along with 120 other Youth Policitians from around New Zealand, descended on Parliament to sit and discuss various issues that are relevant to the state of our current economy and society. However, the role was also so much more than that. As a Member of Youth Parliament, I was a representative for the youth in the Tamaki region and tasked with guaging what issues are relevant to modern day adolescents and children.

My mantra throughout my tenure was all about ‘making politics snackable.’ I strongly believe that in our modern Aoteroa, and around the globe for that matter, members of the youth are reluctant to be involved or have their say as issues are presented in a complex manner. This makes them feel overwhelmed and, as is the case in many facets of life, they find it easier just to leave it with the real decision makers. I believe it is very interesting indeed that I always hear of the elderly writing letters to Parliament, but never of a young person doing the same thing.

But then again, what is paper. Ewwwww they all chorus — we don’t write on paper!

As I said before: technology has overwhelmed us. Taken us to places we could never imagine, both good and bad…

Funnily enough, I was just talking to a family friend of ours who writes regular letters to the government. I asked her, ‘that’s really interesting — would I be able to have a copy of one to read?’ She frowned at me…. ‘Ummm, unfortunately — I have already posted it.’ I smiled at myself, of course… it’s a whole different generation! No way was she going to be able to airdrop me the photos, text me the link, or even send me the article as an attachment.

In this way though, Youth Parliament was also a wonderful opportunity for me to interact with all ages within the community. It was one of the positive aspects that I throroughly enjoyed — interacting with the people, hearing their stories, opinions. I found it incredibly eye-opening, and then being able to act upon these ideas gave me great satisfaction.

At the end of the day however, it really comes down to this…

Politics, no matter how complex, how intricate, confusing, or mind-boggling — has the responsibility to give all citizens an opinion, including the youth, of which will come the next generation of government in Aotearoa.

You may not be able to vote until you are 18, but the ability to generate an educated process within yourself about who you believe, not what your parents or friends think, but who you would trust, to be the right group of people to lead our country, is a life skill that is important, and relevant for your development as a future leader.

Because although many would say otherwise, to me it is more than clear: With the right, open minded approach –

Politics is child’s play.

Aaron Dahmen is the CEO of TADS and became politically recognised when elected as a Member of Youth Parliament in 2016, bringing his mantra of snackable media and politics further into the public eye.