The welcoming of young members into adult divisions has long been topical for the National Cadet Group and Event Health Services Groups. The reality is that Cadet and adult divisional environments are very different. The Cadet environment offers a very structured program that has a focus on learning and development around first aid and related knowledge and skills, as well as the development of core life skills necessary for adulthood–social, emotional, physical, moral and cultural skills development–and a focus on developing active, community-minded citizens. This additionally occurs in a context of fun, practically-based learning and development activities, and socialisation.
Additionally, the majority of participants in a Cadet environment are other young members or young leaders. Conversely, an adult environment has a distinct focus on first aid learning, and without the structure and youth-focused learning styles employed by the Cadet Program. Adult divisions, where members are (for the most part) over the age of 18 years, operate within context of learning and development around the skills necessary to perform in an event health services environment. These divisions too are social in nature (however often perceived as less so by young members), but learning styles are naturally more geared towards learning styles for adults (e.g. they are unlikely to use experiential learning methods, such as games, and may have a greater focus on self-directed and theory-based learning).
The topic has become particularly pertinent to St John in the last 12-18 months with the changing landscape of youth and Cadet involvement in the organisation. For example, some jurisdictions have seen the closure of their Cadet Program, with young people aged 16-17 years joining adult divisions where Cadet divisions no longer exist. For jurisdictions that have retained the Program, while young members are generally encouraged to remain with a Cadet division until they reach adulthood, some jurisdictions allow Cadets aged 16-17 years the choice of transitioning to adult divisions. The AYAN views this as a helpful and progressive method of youth engagement, given that as young people mature and their interests diversify, a Cadet division might not be the right place for some Cadets as they are no longer interested in the Program offered, while others remain well engaged with this style of activity. Giving the option to join an adult division for those members that have lost interest, but still wish to engage with the organisation through Event Health Services, provides the flexibility in volunteering that many young people seek.
In May 2015, the National Event Health Services Group (NEHSG) requested the AustralianYouth Advisory Network (AYAN) develop a paper on what adult divisions can do to welcome young people. The AYAN facilitated a discussion post via their Facebook Page in June on the topic of how adult divisions can welcome young members. The comments on the post yielded rich, qualitative information that is summarised into key themes and discussed below.
The AYAN welcomes and thanks the NEHSG for the opportunity to provide input into this topic.