Thirty years ago on the 20th November 1989 the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child was adopted. Since that time, great progress has been made, yet enduring vulnerability and disadvantage remain. Organised by the Griffith Criminology Institute in partnership with the national charity yourtown, and sponsored by ANZSOC and the PCYC Queensland, this two-day symposium explored the theme Young People and Difference. The symposium was attended by about 75 people across the two days. 

Day one brought together young people, parents, researchers, policy makers, practitioners and advocates. Attendees heard from a mix of speakers and panellists drawing on their own professional and lived experiences, able to share insights on how difference impacts young people’s lives. The keynote address was delivered by Megan Mitchell, the National Children’s Commissioner. Speakers included Janet Ransley, Director GCI, Tracy Adams, CEO yourtown, Sally Dobromilsky, Youth Programs Operations Manager, PCYC Queensland and Tara McGee, President ANZSOC.  

Four themed panels explored difference in justice, employment, education and global perspectives. Discussion highlighted impacts of difference on friendships, family and community as well as mental health and experiences of employment, leisure, education and housing, the legal system and social services. In breakout sessions attendees discussed key policy, research, and service delivery challenges such as making young people count, social justice advocacy, research and knowledge making, and identity, life skills and agency development. Strategies to contribute positively to young people’s life outcomes and opportunities were shared across these sessions.  

Day two focused on research and evaluation and brought together Australian and International scholars and practitioners from inside and outside the academy. Papers were interdisciplinary and considered where, when and why awareness, acceptance or persecution of differences shaped identity development and young people’s sense of place in the world. Facilitated group sessions reflected on core research and evaluation questions including whether collaboration can achieve systemic change, challenges in conducting evaluations of social well-being programs, how to conduct community-involved research with young people and reflections on the intersection between social justice, community engagement and research. Speakers included GCI members, Hennessey Hayes, Katie Hail-Jares and Christine Bond, Adjunct members, Melissa Bull and Kathryn Seymour, and Doctoral scholars, Krystal Lockwood and Corrie Williams.