Recently, the Takanini Electorate Youth Council visited the Parliament. The members had the opportunity to closely observe the proceedings and get valuable insight into how parliamentarians, ministers, and other crucial elements of democracy operate.

Takanini Electorate Youth Council was formed following Youth Parliament selections to hear the collective voices of the youth, increase youth involvement in politics and create a positive impact on the Takanini Electorate community.

After going through security, the council is escorted to the Press Gallery for a surprise video message from the Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern, congratulating them on their journey and wishing them well with a personal story from her time as Prime Minister. Our tour manager described the history and mana of our House of Representatives in halls graced with Aotearoa art work and green or red carpet that identified where royalty must and must not walk.

The council felt extremely privileged to be invited in to the cabinet room, a place where most backbenchers don’t see, before a visit to see the newest cabinet minister and Minister for Youth, Priyanca Radhakrishnan. The Council were welcomed in a parliament office by a charismatic youth minister, and the Council were encouraged to use their collective voices to discuss what they had been hearing and experiencing as youth in the Takanini Electorate through an informal question time. The council discussed topics such as climate change, mental health, and the first increase in budget that the Ministry for Youth has seen in many years, a budget set to increase the reach of youth development services across the motu. The Council was inspired by the way Minister Radhakrishnan conducted herself when discussing her descent into politics, describing it as a happy accident that came about from a career in NGOs. As a group of 15–17-year-olds concerned about their future career paths, the council found this inspiring and learnt that they could experiment and make mistakes, cycling through as many career paths as it took rather than worrying about discovering their career path early on.

After leaving the Minister’s office, the council headed to question time with reserved seating in the viewing gallery, giving them a front row seat to the action. They describe this space as feeling like it is a part of a dream, and are surprised by the interjecting. After an hour in the gallery, and a memorable Matariki waiata from Minister Kiri Allan, the council made tracks for the Labour Pasifika Caucus select committee room. In the room, they are greeted by a number of the caucus members, including Minister Poto Williams, Minister Carmel Sepuloni, Minister Aupito William Sio, and MPs Anahila Kanongataá-Suisuiki, Barbara Edmonds, Tangi Utikere, and Terisa Ngobi. The caucus spent some time getting to know the young leaders and then the floor is open for questions. There is talk of employment initiatives and the new Ministry for Disabled people, before the council breaks off into their own meeting, chaired by Youth MP, Ravneet.

And just like that, the Takanini Youth Council’s whirlwind day in Parliament comes to an end, and again they find themselves on a shuttle to Wellington Airport to be greeted with another flight delay, giving their tour manager the chance to quiz the council on their learnings for the day. This trip clearly had an impact on the group, and they left with a sense of relief that they had their entire lives ahead of them to make mistakes, learn, and possibly become accidental Ministers one day. They now know the difference between Parliament and government, what a select committee does, and how a Bill becomes an act – Alongside random facts like who can walk on which coloured carpet.

After a full-on day of running into MP’s in the halls and extensive questioning, the Council felt gratitude for their first-hand experience in Parliament and took their knowledge and excitement to increase youth engagement in politics back to their home electorate of Takanini and their collective schools, ready to plan their next youth engagement event.