Aksheen Dhillon is heading to Parliament to be a voice for those without one. The Year 12 student is the Tamaki electorate's Youth MP for next year
And because she’s so keen she’s already attended several public meeting with sitting Tamaki MP Simon O’Connor. The role only happens once in every three years, between elections, and Aksheen’s time will be from 1 March to 31 August next year.
As one of 120 Youth MPs, she’ll attend a two-day Youth Parliament where, she’ll get to sit on select committees, debate legislation and ask oral questions of Ministers. Mr O’Connor said one of Aksheen’s responsibilities would also be to address high school students around the value and importance of voting.
“It will be a significant opportunity for Aksheen to gather the views of her peers and take these to Parliament to discuss with other young people,” Mr O’Connor said. “For any young person with an interest in politics this programme provides a unique opportunity to understand and be a part of the Parliamentary process, and connect with their communities.” He added that Aksheen’s greatest exposure to the work of an MP would happen when she got involved in local engagements such as meeting constituents and attending community events.
Aksheen aims to bring fresh eyes to longstanding issues and to be a voice for people who are not easily able to express their views. Today's youth should listen up to what's happening in Parliament, because "the laws we make now will have an effect on our generation in the future."
Aksheen won the Youth MP role by writing an essay about what she thought was the most pressing issue facing youth today. She wrote about communication, and argues that, "ideas for change and improvement come in all shapes and sizes, but it's the communication that will push these changes to happen."
She'd also like to see the discussion of mental health become more open, and, closer to home, she’s aware that the quality of local beaches and water, and the infrastructure is an important part of life in the Tamaki region.
Aksheen’s family often discussed national politics at the dinner table as she was growing up, so from a young age she was exposed to the different political parties and their ideals. “I can’t pinpoint an exact time the switch flipped and I became interested in politics, it’s always just been a part of who I am and how I grew up,” she says.
This year she received Distinction in the New Zealand Economic Competition at the University of Auckland Business School, and is the only Dio girl in her year who managed to attain Distinction.
In July, Aksheen attended a three-week Leadership and Global Engagement programme at Brown University, in Rhode Island, in the United States. The programme sparked her interest in the human rights side of politics, and in finding ways to bring about social change.
The program at Brown explored international issues such as security and terrorism, global trade, human rights, nuclear proliferation, environmental challenges. Through role plays, simulations, panel discussions and group projects, Aksheen and her fellow students covered topics such as the nuclear proliferation of North Korea and Iran, Global Climate Change, United Nations interventions and global responses to terrorism.
She says politics “challenges and humbles” her. “To me, politics is about educating myself on the challenges others face and how the world works so I can then contribute and make a difference in the world. It’s about leadership and understanding the needs of the people, and then creating frameworks for improving the lives of people in particular and the country in general.”
Next year Aksheen will study English, maths, French, economics, history and biology, and wants to go on to study political science, international relations or business.