Learnings from my Youth MP

The Youth Parliament programme is held every three years and provides an amazing opportunity for young people aged 16 to 18 years who are keen to make a difference in their communities.

Every Member of Parliament around the country gets to select their own Youth MP to represent them for a six-month community-based tenure, the highlight of which is attending the two-day Youth Parliament event in Wellington in July.

Here, Youth MPs sit in their MP’s seat in the House, become involved in debates, present a speech, and engage in other parliamentary business such as attending select committees, drafting legislation and being interviewed by members of the Youth Press Gallery.

For those with an interest in pursuing a career in politics, it is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

My Youth MP for 2022 is Carlin Lee, previously Head Boy of Tuakau College and now a student at the University of Otago. His tenure as a Youth MP started well before heading down to Wellington though. He spent several days with me, sitting in on constituent meetings, attending ANZAC Day parades, and meeting members of the local community.

He thoroughly enjoyed the two-day Youth Parliament event in Wellington where he met other MPs, Dr Ashley Bloomfield, and the Governor-General, Dame Cindy Kiro, who called him a future Prime Minister!

He gave a three-minute speech to the House on mental health, a topic very close to his heart and which he describes as one of the most challenging issues that the youth of Aotearoa face today. You can watch Carlin’s speech on YouTube by searching ‘Carlin Lee Youth Parliament’.

He gained some valuable insights from the experience. “Politics is an intriguing and complex system that has a monumental impact on the way we live,” he says. “However, if you have an interest in politics, you also need to have barriers; you never want to succumb to the system. Balancing your own political beliefs with others is integral to maintaining a healthy relationship with the system of politics, as well as those close to you.”

One of the wonderful things about the Youth Parliament programme is that we as elected MPs get to see the depth of talent and experience that these young people bring to politics. They have a huge amount of enthusiasm for local issues. They are worldly wise already and deeply concerned about the future.

I really enjoyed my time with Carlin and it gave me great pleasure to share with him the joys of being an MP, what we do to pass laws, and introducing him to the myriad of issues that Barbara, Lynne and I in my office face every day.

At the beginning of the Youth Parliament event, he sent me a text, saying he was keeping my seat warm, but I get the feeling that it is me who is keeping the seat warm for him. The experience will stand him in good stead as a future leader and I wish him all the very best.