Spotlight on lived experience with Kaitlyne Bowden
Meet Kaitlyne Bowden! Kaitlyne is a Y-Change Lived Experience Consultant and has been working at Berry Street for two years.
The Y-Change initiative is a social and systemic change platform for young people aged 18-25 with lived experiences of socioeconomic disadvantage. As Lived Experience Consultants, the team work to challenge the thinking and practices of wider social systems through facilitating educational workshops, presenting at conferences, and taking part in decision-making processes.
Kaitlyne’s work mostly involves projects within Berry Street, opportunities to develop youth partnership practices, and inform and influence public policy. Other projects outside of Berry Street are aligned with the team’s areas of interest, including issues such as family violence and homelessness.
Stand out moments
One of Kaitlyne’s highlights over the last few years was representing Berry Street at the 2018 Youth Health Conference: “A few Y-Change colleagues and I created a ‘Consent, In Real Life’ poster with information on sexual health, having positive conversations and being aware of body language. A high school teacher was so impressed that he asked for a copy to show his students – that was amazing!”
Outside of Y-Change, Kaitlyne was recently appointed to the Victim Survivors’ Advisory Council (VSAC) at Family Safety Victoria, as one of their Youth and Young Person’s Representatives. This involves providing a lived experience lens to the Royal Commission into Family Violence’s recommendations and to broader family violence policies and practice.
Stronger together: A team effort
When it comes to service users and influencing transformation across the service system, the Y-Change team use their experiences to guide and inform policy critique and development, and service design and delivery. They advocate to help prevent negative service experiences from happening to others.
“We recently made a submission to the Royal Commission into Victoria’s Mental Health System which had a big impact. Our submission is unique because it’s directly from the voices of young people,” Kaitlyne says.
“Even though we have different backgrounds and experiences, we all agreed on the same issues and themes across the mental health service system. We had a unanimous voice saying, ‘this is where the problems are’. That’s what made our submission so strong.”
Kaitlyne enjoys “the incredible support and connections that I have made, especially with my Y-Change colleagues. I owe a lot of my successes to the trust, expertise and rapport that we have built together.”
“I love the work that Berry Street does. I really believe in Y-Change and the work that we’re doing. It’s not just about us; it’s about service users, other young people and the wider community.”
The most valuable thing she’s learnt through Y-Change is “the importance of incorporating and practicing self-care and self-love into my daily routine, especially when doing lived experience work.”
A vision for lived experience
The Y-Change team use their skills, knowledge and experiences as a form of expertise to drive social, organisational and systemic change.
Looking forward, Kaitlyne would like to see lived experience become embedded in systems as best practice. “In the near future, I would like to see most (if not all) youth and community sector organisations dedicated to partnering with those with a lived experience, especially young change makers working towards creating a better future for generations to come.
“I believe that one of our core Y-Change principles shares this sentiment beautifully: ‘Young people who have experienced disadvantage are the only people who can tell us what a policy looks and feels like when it comes to life. That they are key knowledge holders in the search for ‘what works’ and the understanding of what doesn’t, and must be at discussion and decision-making tables, always.’"