Young Commissioner shares experience at 2022 AAAH Conference

Young and Resilient Co-Director Philippa Collin attended the 2022 Youth Health Conference in November last year, along with former Y&R Research Assistant Betty Nugyen and five young Wellbeing Health & Youth (WH&Y) Commissioners, to present preliminary findings from the WH&Y Youth Matters project.

The WH&Y Commissioners are a group of young Australians from different backgrounds, and vastly different lived experiences, who are changing the way young people’s health is researched and delivered in our country. Together with WH&Y researchers, they have established a platform that supports the meaningful engagement of young people in health research, and channels that research into better policy, better services and better professional practice.

The conference was hosted by the Australian Association of Adolescent Health (AAAH) to discuss issues related to adolescence health and wellbeing with researchers, academics, health professionals, policy makers and youth advocates.

Peter Lin is a 22-year-old medical student at the University of Newcastle and one of the WH&Y Commissioners who attended the conference. Peter shares his experience participating in the Conference, reinforcing the importance of the participation of young people in order to offer services that cater to the varied needs of young people. He shares his reflection below.


In late 2022 I had the opportunity to attend the annual AAAH conference, the first to be held after a three-year, COVID-driven hiatus. Being there as part of the WH&Y team was an opportunity for me to broaden my understanding of youth health, and marked the culmination of four months' work preparing the WH&Y Commission’s presentation on the Youth Matters project.

Thank you Pip, Betty and Deb for being amazing supervisors and collaborators on this project. See you in Adelaide for the 2023 Youth Health Conference!

I arrived on the second day of the conference, and it was clear from the get-go that this conference was focused on hearing not only from researchers and academics, but from young people themselves. For so many young people, the last few years have been a period of significant disruption, from the lockdowns of COVID-19, to extreme climate events and increasing cost-of-living concerns.

Yet, through this, we have also seen young people take action in extraordinary ways. For me, one of the highlights of the conference was the keynote address by Jean Hinchcliffe, a young climate activist who was instrumental in organising the School Strike 4 Climate protests. Over the course of the conference, we heard from many other inspirational researchers and young people including another of our very own  WH&Y Commissioners, Grace McGowan, who helped host the Youth Forum panel event alongside National Children's Commissioner, Anne Hollonds.

By bringing together new research and perspectives from across the country, the presentations at the conference demonstrated to me just how varied it can be to grow up as a young person in Australia, and the big differences in the standard of healthcare available to young people, depending on who they are and where they live.

We learned how digital technologies like LiveWire are allowing young people with disabilities to build online communities, how young 'recruiters' can play an integral role as intermediaries between young people and healthcare services, and about the urgent need to address the geographic disparity in access to youth health services, such as that facing Tasmania currently. Across all the talks we heard, one thing was clear: that improving health and wellbeing outcomes requires researchers, policy makers and clinicians to listen to young people's perspectives and experiences.

Of course, in and among all of these amazing events, we still had our own work to complete. On the last day of the conference, Professor Philippa Collin, Betty Nguyen, Deborah Manandi and I presented the preliminary findings of the WH&Y Youth Matters project, as well as a symposium on the work of the WH&Y Commission and its resources, including the WH&Y Engagement Framework.

As a relatively new Commissioner, it has been incredible for me to see what WH&Y has achieved in terms of propelling youth involvement in health, research and policy design. Youth engagement was a theme throughout the conference: How can we actually engage young people in a meaningful way that leverages their lived experience to produce beneficial outcomes for adolescent health and wellbeing? And whilst there is no one-size-fits-all solution, I hope our work adds to the increasing literature on how this can be done to produce tangible results for everyone.