Diya, Gerard, Veronica and I were a group of young people from Sydney who travelled to Surfers Paradise and attended the 2018 AAAH Conference. Earlier in the year we took part in workshops and events to explore an ethics of engagement, organised by the Wellbeing Health & Youth (WH&Y) Centre of Research Excellence. We wanted to attend the conference so as to represent the voices of young people from the project and within our communities.

On Wednesday 7th November, young people from all over Australia attended the Youth Forum to participate in conversations about social change and youth engagement. We wrote down our passions and expectations of the conference on a paper plane. Then, these thoughts were collaboratively extended, reinforced and challenged by other young people in the room. Diya, Veronica, Gerard and I co-facilitated a workshop to think about a future foundation model for WH&Y’s Adolescent Health Research Commission (AHRC) and shared insights about the Youth Engagement Declaration in development (check out an amazing video made by Diya here). The Youth Forum was an empowering, inspiring and meaningful experience for the 15 young people that attended.

On Thursday 8th and Friday 9th November, we listened to numerous oral presentations and speeches about researchers’ insights into adolescent health and health research. It triggered our imaginations, awakened our desire for change and initiated conversations about what can we do to contribute to discourses around adolescent health. However, it also made us realise that this was not a conference for young people. Rather, it was a conference for adults to understand the lived experiences of young people.

Across the three days, we learnt that there is more to be done in regards to adolescent health and health research. Let’s make the conference even better in 2019 by encouraging more young people to attend the conference and learn together. As an article by Diya highlights, the heart of the message from young people is as follows: Nothing about us without us.

See you all next year!