East Auckland Youth Forum visits Parliament

Students meet with Prime Minister Bill English and MP for Botany Jami-Lee Ross. Photo supplied

A group of politically-minded students from East Auckland visited Parliament recently.

The East Auckland Youth Forum consists of two senior students from each of the schools in the wider area and was set up last year by MP for Botany Jami-Lee Ross in conjunction with the Youth MPs for Botany and Pakuranga as a way of engaging with young people.

Ross said the group – which meets monthly – is a way for him to connect better with young people and a way for them to have access and a relationship with him as their local representative.

The group left Auckland first thing in the morning and flew back late that night.

Ormiston Senior College student Vaneel Ram described it as “very tiring – very hands-on since the morning.”

The 17-year-old said it was interesting to see how the different parties interacted off camera.

“You think they’re all enemies but behind closed doors they’ve got a sense of mutual respect – it’s really intriguing how they can still have a close relationship.”

Howick College student Inka Anouk said she was also surprised by the camaraderie among politicians off camera despite the insults slung during question time and in media interviews.

She said she enjoyed meeting all the MPs for both parties and seeing how “human” politicians are.

“Parliament is really one big family, even though they’re on opposite teams.”

The students watched Question Time live and met with a variety of parliamentary staff including Prime Minister Bill English, Speaker of the House David Carter, Minister for Education Nikki Kaye,  Associate Minister for Tertiary Education Louise Upston, Leader of the Opposition Jacinda Ardern, Opposition Chief Whip Kris Faafoi and journalist Patrick Gower among others.

The trip was 18-year-old Hannah Templar’s second time visiting parliament as part of the group – she also attended last year.

The Elim Christian College student agreed it was interesting to see the relationships between politicians in person.

“You kind of realise they’re all humans. Last year we met Jacinda as well and she came into the National Party conference room and was talking to us and you could see that they actually are all friends – it’s not like they hate each other or anything.”