Speaking up for Young People: Meet Tessa

Tessa is a 23-year-old Olave from Moe in regional Victoria. She is a youth advocate and a disability advocate. She’s also a member of the 2019 Victorian Youth Congress – an advisory committee for the Minister for Youth.

‘There are so many different people with different experiences from across the state,’ Tessa says.

From the flood of applications for the Youth Congress, only 19 people are accepted each year. The Youth Congress includes representation for disability, Indigenous communities, regional and disadvantaged areas, LGBTQIA, mental health, cultural and linguistically diverse communities, and more.

In 2019, two of the successful applicants are Girl Guides – Tessa and Lily. It’s an outstanding achievement and a great opportunity to create positive change in the Victorian community.

Tessa has been involved with Girl Guides for the last seven years. She loves meeting up with the other Olaves, going camping, and getting creative with crafts, but her favourite part of being a Guide is attending big Guiding events, including joint events between Guides and Scouts.

‘You get to meet all different kinds of people. [Girl Guides is] a whole load of fun,’ she says.

Tessa (fourth from the left) with some fellow Olaves

Every year the Congress tackles a different challenge facing young Victorians. This year the theme is youth civic engagement. The Youth Congress is exploring how to get young people more involved in the community and in government.

‘We represent so many people from across Victoria and bring all these ideas to the Minister … to help improve the lives and well-being of youths in Victoria,’ she says.

Tessa knows the importance of having an inclusive decision-making process. As well as her work with the Youth Congress, she is also a board member for the Youth Affairs Council Victoria (YACVIC) and Latrobe Youth Space.

Tessa thinks there are too many situations where ‘decisions are made for youths rather than by them.’

The Youth Congress is an important tool for engaging young people as advocates.

In her application for the Youth Congress, Tessa highlighted Ability Fest as another outstanding example of youth and disability advocacy at work.

Photo Credit: Ability Fest

Ability Fest is a music festival organised by Dylan Alcott (an Australian wheelchair basketball player and youth disability advocate). The festival is accessible to people of all abilities and all festival proceeds are donated to help young people with disabilities.

When Tessa attended the inaugural festival last year, she was blown away by its inclusive culture.

‘It was absolutely amazing! There was a quiet area, disabled toilets, no alcohol. It was wheelchair accessible.’

Young advocates like Tessa are doing fantastic work supporting youth engagement opportunities like Ability Fest and the Youth Congress.

We think that’s pretty amazing.

Like Lily, Tessa found out about the Youth Congress through Girl Guides Victoria. If you’d like to get involved in the Youth Congress and similar leadership opportunities, keep an eye on Guiding News, our Facebook page, and this page of our website.

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