Wairarapa Youth MP Lily Lewis is encouraging youth voting. PHOTO/SUPPLIED

Erin Kavanagh-Hall

If you want to help change the world for the better, voting is a good place to start.

This is the message young parliamentarian Lily Lewis hopes to spread to the youth of Wairarapa – through a series of interactive civics education workshops.

Lily, a Year 13 pupil and the Wairarapa Youth MP for Alastair Scott, is planning to embark on a tour of the region’s secondary schools, chatting to senior pupils about New Zealand’s political system and how young citizens can shape the country’s future.

Lily was chosen by Wairarapa MP Alastair Scott to represent Wairarapa for the 2019 Youth Parliament, founded by the Ministry of Youth Development to allow youth to experience the New Zealand Parliament and develop an interest in the political system.

As part of their tenure, each Youth MP gets to organise a youth-centred project or event in their home region.

Lily chose to focus on youth engagement for her project as, historically, younger New Zealanders (aged 18 to 24) had been underrepresented at the voting booths.

Lily said youths were becoming “much more politically aware” but were often unsure about what they could do to make a difference.

“I’m telling them they can start by casting their vote, and making their voices heard,” she said.

“I think [civics education] is important because youth need to be able to make informed decisions about who they’re voting for.

“Year 13 students will be turning 18 by next year, just in time for the election – so let’s get out and vote.”

Lily, who has been planning her civics workshops as part of Makoura College’s new project-based learning initiatives, said the seminars would be run in three parts: PowerPoint presentations, an interactive activity, and a quiz to finish off.

Her PowerPoints will cover the basics of New Zealand’s political system: the composition of Parliament, the different electorates, the different voter rolls, and the role of the Mixed Member Proportional system in forming a government – which clearly came to the fore in the 2017 General Election.

She will also touch on the workings of local government and the importance of casting one’s vote in local elections, which traditionally have low turnouts.

Lily has contacted schools to book civics workshops and has had an enthusiastic response so far.

“I think schools are starting to realise how important it is for our rangatahi to get involved and have their say.”

Lily’s next adventure as a Youth MP will be spending a week at Parliament, where she will attend Select Committee meetings, debate mock bills and other topical issues, and participate in Question Time alongside her mentor Alastair Scott.

She will also be attending the New Zealand Model United Nations, held at Victoria University of Wellington in July.

If your school wants to book Lily for a civics education workshop, contact her through Facebook: Lily Lewis – Youth MP for Alastair Scott – Wairarapa.