My approach to researching citizenship is to look at ‘cultures of citizenship’: that is, I am interested in the everyday engagement of citizenship processes. As such, I want to understand if people are engaged? Do they feel empowered? What happens when people disengage?

As it is not a legal or political focus, I include ‘not-citizen citizens’ in my work: that is, those within the population such as tourists, refugees and working visa holders. In Australia, it is estimated that our population expands by up to 20 percent if we include such groups.

My particular interest is citizenship and young people.

I recently undertook a research project with Youth Action looking at young people in Western Sydney. We were interested in how some of the 470,000 plus young people though of living in Western Sydney. We did this by asking them a simple question:  ‘What Makes You Smile About Where You Live?’

Western Sydney has traditionally been thought of as the ‘other Sydney’ – away from the beaches, harbour and tourist attractions. The Report, which was written with Natasha Lay (Youth Action), Sky Hugman (Western Sydney University) and Ingrid Matthews (Western Sydney University) which is available here, found that:

  • Negative stereotypes about Western Sydney are outdated. Young people are excited and optimistic about life in Western Sydney.
  • Young people positively identify as belonging to Western Sydney, an identity which is strongest when they are engaged and feel accepted.
  • Young people view themselves as assets, essential to addressing the region’s challenges, as well as contributing to the success of Western Sydney.

Four main elements that make Greater Western Sydney thrive:

  1. People… People in Western Sydney are welcoming and accepting;
  2. Culture… Western Sydney celebrates cultural diversity;
  3. Community… Western Sydney is a connected, supportive, and friendly community; and,
  4. Place… Young people love the uniqueness of Western Sydney.

Down the report here… and I would love to know what you think…