Young people influencing change: It does happen.

We are increasingly seeing a huge cross-over between lack of climate action and health outcomes, says Neil Pharaoh, and that’s an issue he hopes will be a focus of the YHF National Summit.

As it happens, Neil will speak at the Summit on the theme of ‘Young People Influencing Change’. It’s a subject that as a young adult he has already had plenty of experience with.

He is one of a dozen young leaders who will bring a wide range of talents and experience in presentations at the September 15 Summit.

Neil was a founding director of LGBTIQ+ philanthropic group, GiveOUT Australia, and was national co-convenor of Rainbow Labor, where he led the internal campaign that achieved over 200 legislative and regulatory reforms, including changing the Labor Party’s position on marriage equality.

“With climate change comes an increased risk of more pandemics, and other health related impacts from climate change. I think young people are hugely passionate and pragmatic and expect to see more on the climate crisis and will benefit from health outcomes along the way. Climate and health are one big theme I am keen to hear more about at the summit,” Neil says.

“Another key point is that services and engagement around health care, much like education, have not really changed since the industrial revolution. We are increasingly seeing young people advocate for things like more telehealth, or greater choices and access to services – and in some sectors, entire new systems and processes will need to be designed. Medicare is a great system, but what will be its next major development and how can cost and outcome be measured differently with the ideas and passion young people have today?”

A third theme he thinks needs to be addressed at the summit is wellness, “particularly given we have now spent almost 2% of our adult lives (and growing) in some form of lockdown. Keeping wellness at the front and centre will be key, or else there will be lifelong implications and bad outcomes for young people long into the future.”

Neil was featured in the Deloitte ‘2018 Outstanding 50 LGBTI Leaders’ list and ran for Victorian Parliament in 2014 and 2018 as the Labor candidate for Prahran. After some years working for not-for-profit, private and government sectors - both in Australia and internationally - Neil, co-founded Tanck, a government engagement consulting firm.

As national co-chair of Rainbow Labor for almost seven years, he says the key lesson above and beyond everything else was that turning up, doing the work, and mucking in when nobody else was willingctd54w is what really made the change. “So many people talk about change, so many people want to see it - yet so few are willing to actually do the boring, tedious, hard work which is what’s required to make systemic change happen.”

Something else he learned along the way was that political parties are ripe for disruption from people who just bring ideas from outside politics. Skills, techniques, and processes that are common knowledge in business and the community sector are still new in the insular bubbles of party politics.

Neil also noted that in order to change people’s views, you need to take them with you. “Calling someone racist or homophobic is not going to lead to a sudden mea culpa moment and change their minds.”

Politics is a tough game for young Australians, he says. “Many are still not enrolled to vote (be sure you enrol today!) and political parties are looking more and more distant to what we want to see in the world.

“Compromise is the basis of democracy, and we need to be willing to take small steps and bring people along with us. I hope that more and more young people will join the major political parties of government, both Liberal and Labor. Because even a small influx of new members could shift the dial for both major parties of government.”

You can register for the YHF National Summit here.


About the author

Mark Metherell

Mark Metherell joined the Consumers Health Forum of Australia as Communications Manager in February 2013. Previously he was the Canberra based health correspondent for the Sydney Morning Herald, a position he held since 1999. He was also medical reporter for the Age in the 1980s. In a newspaper career spanning 40 years, he has held a variety of other posts including news editor and defence and foreign affairs correspondent. He retired from his position as Communications Director with CHF on 1 March 2022.