YOUNG people of western Sydney got a chance to speak their minds and to learn ways to make people listen, at Youth Action's What's Up West? conference in Penrith last Thursday and Friday.
Speakers included the Australian Youth Climate Coalition's chair, Anna Rose, poet and rapper Omar Musa, and the Oaktree Foundation's chief executive, Viv Benjamin.
Two participants — Danielle Santos, 16, and Lubna Sherieff, 15, both of Camden — spoke their minds to Fairfax Media.
"I attended this conference because I feel passionate about social justice and mental health issues," Danielle said.
"Global inequality and poverty affect very many people around the world, but I think we have the ability and the technology to do something about it.
"I found there's a bunch of young people in western Sydney who are as passionate about it as I am; I found that heart-warming."
Lubna said many conferences discussed issues of concern to young people, but did not target them in ways that related to young people.
"Every person I spoke to here was quite nervous about getting up to speak, but by coming here they learnt how to do that," she said.
"I'm most concerned about empowering women and children in the Third World."
Lubna also said that, like Danielle, she was concerned about mental health.
"Because of the stigma of mental illness, young people often don't know what to do about it," she said.
Danielle said it was estimated that as many as one in four Australians were affected by mental illness in some way.
Both also rejected the notion that young people were not interested in politics.
Danielle said it was more that her peers felt politicians were not listening to them.
Lubna said politicians and commentators ought to be talking about issues such as poverty and how it affected people.
"But every time I turn on the TV all I hear is jargon and statistics," she said.