by YPAT team member
**UPDATE** Since this article was published, the decision was made to hold a second round of YPAT in 2020! Get in quick for September 2020 and apply here. Applications close Monday 21 September.
YPAT (Young Political Advocacy Training) is a weeklong, intensive experience where young people aged 18 to 30 gather to learn about Australia’s political and cultural institutions. It has been run by the National Civic Council’s youth organisation the Thomas More Centre for 11 years.
In this time of Covid-19 restrictions, the usual mode of a week of intense sharing in classrooms, at meals and staying up late together was not possible. But neither was it an option just to hold YPAT online instead … replacing a lectern with a camera.
Aware that students would be tired of endless Zoom meetings after several months of lockdown, the YPAT team set to work to create a unique virtual YPAT and to spread the word all around the country.
By the time YPAT week rolled around, we had 66 delegates.
Our biggest numbers came from Western Australia, with 23 delegates. Queensland and New South Wales had numbers in the high teens. The ACT and Victoria were also represented.
The team was particularly encouraged by the receptiveness of the group to the principles of Christian social teaching – the core tenet of YPAT philosophy.
We started with a talk on the main principles of the worldview – that everyone is valuable, work has dignity, and community is important.
Each of these principles was woven into the fabric of the following talks.
This unity of foundation really spoke to students. One commented: “Didn’t know much about Christian social teaching, I think this gem is not being taught in Catholic schools or other Catholic activities. I guess we are missing out and it was very good (and urgent) to know about it. Will read more about it now.”
Talks by Queensland Senator Gerard Rennick on the economy and NCC national president Patrick Byrne (on ‘World Powers’) stood out as favourites among the students.
Although it was sad that we wouldn’t get to see one another face to face, the circumstances meant that many delegates could access an opportunity they couldn’t have otherwise.
One delegate commented: “I was thrilled when I found out it was available online, as I may now have the opportunity to experience all the wonderful things people have said about YPAT.”
Anna Krohn, from the John Paul II Institute for Marriage and Family, joined us via Zoom on Day 2 to answer questions about Human Dignity and justice.
“There were a great and varied array of questions and I am sure we could have gone on for many more hours discussing and unpacking our short answers,” she said.
Zoom tests, sample questions and discussion plans were all carried out before each of the three online events to ensure the live events would go as smoothly as possible. Text messages replaced raised hands during Q&A’s. There was spirited activity in the Zoom and YouTube live chats, with people sharing thoughtful commentary and greeting one another from across state lines and even time zones.
MAKING IT FUN
Each delegate was sent a parcel ahead of time with a wrapped package assigned to each day of the program. We didn’t forget recommendations for tea and hot chocolate for delegates to sip as they viewed each day’s videos from the comfort of their couch!
On the final night, George Christensen MP spoke via livestream to delegates on the interaction between faith and politics.
If YPAT sounds right for you or a young person you know, you can sign up for the next event here. We can’t wait to see you!
We asked participants what were their favourite things about YPAT:
“Meeting like-minded, talented people with an assumption that we were in a ‘safe space’ for discussion, but at the same time not being an echo chamber of people in ideological lockstep.” – James
“That I could actually talk about anything with everyone without instant anger and derision of my views. Anything I didn’t understand was immediately and happily explained to me.” – Emily
“Impressed by the quality of the program put together for the covid19 lockdown … it would’ve been easy to do nothing. Well done!” – Meghan