Image is illustrative. Joel Mott (Unsplash)

Youth councils, youth advisory committees and youth parliaments are different names for youth participatory structures that are usually associated with:

    • a level of government (such as local government, regional/state government or on some occasions also national or international government/parliament) 
    • a government institution (such as a ministry, government department, youth centre); or
    • a company, non-governmental organisation or a project.

Youth councils are participatory structures that represent young people and advocate on their behalf. They are often established in an advisory capacity, meaning that their primary task is to provide advice to a level of government, a government institution or other body, such as a company or an organisation. Youth councils can be universal (meaning that all young people within a certain age range can apply to become a member) or targeted ( youth councils that represent the interest of a specific group of young people, e.g. ethnic or sexual minorities). 


Common activities undertaken by youth councils:

  • consultations with young people;
  • social campaigns, events, festivals and debates;
  • representing youth council in other committees and organisations;
  • advocating on behalf of young people and offering advice to decision makers;
  • commenting on documents such as draft motions, budgets, strategies and policies.

Youth council membership

The practice of determining the membership of a youth council varies greatly. There can be an election process, where eligible young people can run as a candidate and/or vote for their representative. For example, local level youth councils can have various eligibility criteria, such as having to live or study at a municipality and being of a certain age.

This process often replicates the election process of ‘adult’ local councils. 

Another commonly used option for determining membership for a youth council is through a process of nomination. Most commonly, schools or youth organisations (or both) nominate a certain number of representatives to the youth council.

Sometimes there is no democratic process set up for a youth council and either everyone who meets the predetermined eligibility criteria is eligible to join or an expression of interest needs to be submitted, after which a youth worker, public servant or a committee reviews and makes a decision about the applicant.


Key takeaways about youth councils:

  • Youth councils should be representative of the youth population, comprising of young people of various ages, backgrounds, genders and levels of experience.
  • Given the representative function of the youth council, there should be a democratic process in place to provide legitimacy;
  • Youth councils are by convention youth-led. That is, they are run by young people, not adults.
  • They are typically given resources to work with (rooms for meetings, funds for activities, a support person, such as a youth worker; office space and a computer among other things);
  • In some countries, local level youth councils are established under the law and have rights given to them by the parliament;


Martti Martinson
Martti Martinson

Martti Martinson is an Honorary Fellow at Victoria University, Australia and his research and advocacy work is focused on the enabling environment for youth participation in decision-making processes. He is a strong advocate for the concept of human rights based youth work and legislating youth participation.