What is the enabling environment for local level youth participation? A comparative study of youth councils in the Australian state of Victoria and Estonia

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Martinson, Martti (2020) What is the enabling environment for local level youth participation? A comparative study of youth councils in the Australian state of Victoria and Estonia. Research Master thesis, Victoria University.


At a time of rapid change in the political involvement of young people, the creation of structures to facilitate the participation of young people in decision-making processes has been on the rise globally (Badham & Wade 2010; Farrow 2015). Youth councils are often created with the aim of representing the interests of young people in the community through advocacy, lobbying and provision of advice to decision-making bodies. At the same time the landscape of youth councils, particularly at a local government level, is varied and often lacking the evidence of best practice, an enabling environment and coordination. This mixed-methods comparative case study research analysed the current environment and context in which youth councils are operating, and the experiences of former and current members of youth councils and the professionals that support their work, in the Australian state of Victoria and in Estonia. Semi-structured interviews and an online survey across the two countries and in two languages were employed from 2016 until 2017 to map the experiences and identify youth councils’ successes, gaps and potential for improvement. Qualtrics software was used to collect, analyse and code the survey data; data from semi- structured interviews was coded manually. The coding process identified key nodes and sub- nodes. The results revealed that local level youth councils in Victoria and Estonia share many similarities, particularly in their aims, commonly undertaken activities and aspirations; however, there are also noticeable differences which can largely be attributed to the relevant legislative framework, policies, coordination mechanisms and resourcing for youth councils that exist in Estonia but not in Victoria. Through the results of this study, a framework for an enabling environment for youth councils was identified and conceptualised, using the Enabling Environment Index developed by CIVICUS (2013), the World Alliance for Citizen Participation, as a guide. The findings of this research also sought to provide an understanding of how the work of local level youth councils can be better supported and organised by policy, organisational and legislative measures to increase the effectiveness and benefits of these structures for young people and the community.

Additional Information

Master of Applied Research

Item type Thesis (Research Master thesis)
URI https://vuir.vu.edu.au/id/eprint/40988
Subjects Historical > FOR Classification > 1605 Policy and Administration
Historical > FOR Classification > 1607 Social Work
Current > Division/Research > Institute for Sustainable Industries and Liveable Cities
Keywords youth councils; Australia; Victoria; Estonia; Enabling Environment Index; policy; legislation; local governments; young people; youth participation; comparative case study
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