YEP Crew Blog Post – Vithan Thillairajah: ‘Every Body, Every Mind Summit’, a Reflection of my Sexual Health Journey

My journey at the YEP Project has only just begun but the 2017 YACWA/YEP Every Body, Every Mind Summit has definitely been a highlight! It was a youth sexual health sector event that aimed to bring young people and service providers together to discuss, and increase awareness of important sexual health issues.

The day started off with a powerful Welcome To Country by Shaun Nannup, followed by a keynote speech from the Hon. Alannah Clohesy MLC Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Health, and then the YACWA welcome from CEO Ross Wortham. Shaun Nannup used the spiritual story of the ‘Weaver Bird’ to urge us to bring the best, most genuine versions of ourselves. Ross Wortham being inspired from this Welcome, inspired the rest of the audience when he said  that “…even though individually we are a drop in the ocean, we need to come together collectively as a body of water, to tackle the complex issue of sexual health”.

You’d think it wouldn’t get any more inspiring, but you’d be wrong! The Slam Poetry was more than just inspiring, it was eye-opening, brave and artistically brilliant. The raw authentic emotions from the Slam Poets provoked an array of emotions within me. The slam poets bravely shared many of their personal stories; their sexual experiences, encounters, past trauma, transgender issues and mental health issues. The anecdotal struggles young people face in the sexual health sphere makes you realise the importance of a sexual health summit like this. For me it was the first time witnessing slam poetry and it has left me with a need to hear more!

This was then followed by Knowledge Transfer Sessions from a variety of experts in the field of sexual health. It was a great networking opportunity, as well as an opportunity for capacity building within existing organisations. The sessions provided me with tangible every-day actions that I can do to improve the sexual health of peers around me. Things like calling out and challenging homophobia, transphobia, avoiding heteronormative and simplistic pronouns do make a real difference in the lives of LGBTIQ+ young people. Never underestimate how the simplest of things can make the biggest of differences.

There was then a Youth Panel discussion encompassing a diverse range of panel members sharing their sexual health experiences, and what sexual health means to them. What really stood out for me was the idea of sexual empowerment, and how your disability or your ethnicity shouldn’t, and doesn’t define your sexual needs. Sexuality is a basic human right, and provides us with joy and empowerment. It is especially profound when we are in an inclusive environment that encourages us to explore our sexual journey. We all have a responsibility in fostering this inclusive environment.

We also had the Think Tank Sessions in which participants delved into complex sexual health issues and collaborated to find solutions.

All in all, the Every Body, Every Mind Summit was a very inspiring day that made me reflect on my sexual health journey. My time with the YEP Project has significantly enriched my awareness surrounding sexual health, and given me countless opportunities to view sexuality from a diverse range of perspectives. It made me realise that being a part of a great initiative that is the YEP Project is an absolute privilege.

 

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Vanessa Vlajkovic

Hi! My name is Nessa and I’m 20 years old. I’m studying Journalism at Edith Cowan University, with a Public Relations minor. I am an avid reader, writer, traveller and cheerleader. I’m also a passionate advocate for the deafblind community, and for other types of disability. I’ve been on the committee of the Youth Disability Advocacy Network (YDAN) at YACWA for a few months, and through them have developed a desire to become a YEP volunteer, as I want to expand my horizons.

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