Parra Youth Matters   University of Sydney DIMIA You Me Us - Living in Harmony Council for Multicultural Australia
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Introductory Session 3

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6 July 2003

Summary Report of the Day

When the ParraYouthMatters Project Team arrived at the Parramatta Police Station (this was the venue, not as a result of a bust up!) they were quite concerned because the agenda for the day was quite elaborate and difficult to plan for. It would require the jurors to select the Charge (basically the topic of debate for the Youth Jury), and also train in areas such as strategic questioning for the Youth Jury.

Unfortunately three jurors had other commitments (could it be coincidental that that these commitments arose AFTER the venue was announced? Doubt it!), however the remaining fourteen had arrived for the start of a big day.

First up was the introduction of Samantha Allen, Chair of the Youth Jury. She was clear to explain her role and pose her expectations of the youth jurors. Samantha will be the regulator of the day, ensuring that everything is running to plan. These things include time management, prompting the informed presenters to answer the questions being asked and managing any observers such as media or the general public.

The jurors were then faced with the most difficult task so far: the selection of the Charge. It was clear from last session that the jurors wanted to talk about media. Thus the ideas that arose from previous discussion about media were again tackled in the hopes that the topic could be refined and clarified. It was essential that everybody present would understand and be satisfied with the final Charge.

The large group talks mostly surrounded the following areas:

  • The media creates stereotypes of different cultures and can play a biased role when reporting on these groups
  • The media sometimes extends the truth to create interesting articles
  • Government regulation of media to prevent stereotyping vs. media required for free speech
  • The media puts too much emphasis on differences between cultures, making it more difficult to achieve a common Australian identity
  • The media affects perceptions of different neighbourhoods and communities

From the above, the jurors were asked to create a Charge that they thought would be useful for the Youth Jury and the future Recommendations. Jurors worked in small groups to come up with ideas for a Charge. Amongst these, there were common ideas such as: Media, Power, Affects, Influences, Identity, Results, Australia, and PeopleÍs views. These words were played with to come up with different Charges. The group settled on the following combination of words:

Does the power of the media influence peopleÍs views about ethnicity affecting Australian identity?

The jurors together analysed the Charge so that the understanding of each key word was similar. There were very different understandings to begin with. For example, one juror was concerned that the term ethnicity might exclude those of an Anglo-Saxon background. It was decided amongst most of the group that it should not exclude these people. Further, there was considerable debate about the term identity Æ some believing that it meant collective characteristics, others believing that it was individual. The outcome was that it should be defined as those characteristics that define Australia as a nation. This means how do Australians see themselves as a nation, and how do people overseas see us.

It was after this process that the jurors thought they had finalised the Charge, only to come back after a break and have the following Charge presented:

The media adversely influences peopleÍs views about different cultures affecting perceptions of Australia as a nation.

There were a few reasons for this change:

  • The term power in the first Charge was very loaded
  • Ethnicity was still misunderstood by some of the jurors
  • Rather than using identity, which could be defined differently later on, the words Australia as a nation were used, following the groupÍs discussion about what identity means.
  • The initial Charge lost a lot of the passion that arose from the discussions; the second allowed this passion to come through again

There was some debate amongst the Jurors about the word "adversely". Some thought a simpler word like "negatively" should be used. Others thought "adversely" makes the Charge sound more impressive. In the end the Youth Jury voted 13 to 1 to keep "adversely". The jurors were all quite happy with the other changes, thus it became the Charge for the Youth Jury. A definite reason for celebration!

The final section consisted of a strategic questioning exercise that would be very important for the jurors at the Youth Jury when they begin questioning informed presenters. Using open-ended questions designed to attract the most thorough answers seemed to flow naturally. In small groups, the jurors were able to criticise their own questions in order to improve them. It is clear from this exercise that when it comes to producing the real questions, the group will be very successful.

After a tiresome day, the jurors each reported on one thing they enjoyed about the Introductory Sessions. This included the friendly relationship that developed amongst the jurors and the facilitators and the ease at which this occurred, the KFC of that day, and also how well the ParraYouthMatters Project Team had organised the three days. A few photographs later, and the team headed off, ready and waiting for AustraliaÍs first ever Youth Jury!