KAPOWWW! is a Youth Media Group for 12 – 25 year olds in Dandenong. The group meets weekly to learn how to use social media to create change in their community:
The KAPOWWW media group is a fun way to tackle issues for young people through the use of memes, film, art, writing and photography 
On 7 May, the group generously allowed Shofi, from our Steering Committee, and me to attend their session, to discuss the Youth Engagement Resources project with them. After the KAPOWWW!-ers had checked out a site for a video installation they are currently working on, we moved to a local café and Shofi and I interviewed them about their thoughts on youth engagement and their ideas for the resources. It was an animated, frank discussion with many valuable observations. Here are some highlights:
What is young people’s role in a community?
“I think that lots of adults are just, like, ‘oh my god – young people! They’re going to kill us all!’ They really do”
“They don’t take teenagers seriously”
“Adults see us as too immature”
If you wanted to make something different in Dandenong, what would you do, who would you speak to?
“Speak to the council… it depends who you talk to… it’s awkward if you’ve never been with them… groups like this, we’re just pitching ideas for everything, but if you’re not in a group, if you’re just like a random person, it’s like ‘I’m just not gonna bother cos my voice is never gonna be heard’”
What stops people from joining a group?
“I think promotions, basically. People don’t promote them as much as they should be, so people know about it”
“The internet can be an active or great way to get people into something… get people sharing it, talking about it… start looking it up”
How do you guys take part in your community?
“The biggest thing is groups like this where we make campaigns or something, but we’re also, like on committees like FReeZA where we organise events for things”
“It gives people responsibilities”
“A lot of adults think, ‘school, school, school; uni, uni, uni; work; work; work’”
– “Then wife!”
“Yeah, then marriage, then having kids. A lot of them are like, ‘no, you can’t do all this kind of stuff because you’re going to turn out to be a rebel’”.
“I think as well, I lot of the kids would say ‘my parents think this and this’, but really the kids haven’t even really asked their mum, you know? ‘Would you let me do this, this, and this?’ instead of what you say you want me to do. I don’t think there’s any communication – if someone just assumes that ‘hey, this person’s not going to let me do this, because they say that all the time’ they never actually ask”
If I wanted to get young people involved in a group, what should I do? How should I communicate with young people?
“You have to make it look fun”
How do I make it look fun?
“Do comic stuff.. In comical ways”
“Do it by video – that’s what we’ve done for Y-Stop [Dandenong’s youth venue] – we’ve promoted it through a video, it’s actually funny, that’s why it can get other people who want to get involved”
[One of KAPOWWW!’s promo videos can be seen at https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?v=638415806173010&set=vb.121707511177178&type=2&theater – you may need to log into Facebook to view it].
“Giving people what they need”
How do I find out what young people need?
“Well, you do a survey, and you ask people around”
“Surveys are boring!”
What can you do instead of surveys?
“Just ask them a few questions”
“You could maybe hold a local concert, or something, and ask people’s opinions at the end, you know, something a bit more interactive”
So if we’re going to create resources that are going to help someone create activities and events for you guys to get involved in, what sort of messages should be in them?
“Give them [young people] a chance”
“Everyone was young at one stage; everyone should know how we felt”
“Adults need to give kids a chance, like, yes, we’re crazy sometimes, and yes we do silly things, but they were our age at one stage and just because we have the guts to do more things than they did”
Any other messages for adults or organisations who want to involve young people in what they’re doing?
“I think booklets are really bad, I can’t be bothered reading through, like a booklet”
“You should make a video, just a factual video, and make it funny… do the most randomest things you’ve ever seen – people love random things”
“You know what’s really cool? Infographs really get to the point. Do one-page things that get to the point”
[Copies of the Taking young people seriously: Making change in your community handbook are passed around to the group]
These booklets that you have in front of you, first of all, tell me the bad things about them.
“It looks too serious”
“Are these supposed to be for kids or adults?”
These are supposed to be for young people.
[General groans of disapproval from the group]
“They should be more colourful… more colours… bright colours, abstract”
“It’s too long, kids aren’t going to read it”
“I think that kids learn the best through visual… through videos, and memes”
“There’s too much words”
“It has to be a small book”
“A lot of kids these days are like, visual, audio and kinaesthetic learning, there’s not much, like, reading, it’s more like video”
“Like, personally, if I read a book, I fall asleep within the next, first page or two. Honestly. That’s me”
“I can’t concentrate when I read; I’m reading and all I hear is ‘blah, blah, blah’”
So how can we make information interesting and compelling for you guys?
“Maybe writing a little bit bigger… instead of lots of pages with tiny writing, it’s like ‘I’m not reading all of that’”
Would you guys use something on your phones, like a mobile website?
“Yes!” [whole group]
If there’s an app for it would you get it?
“It depends what’s on the app”
“If it was free”
What should be on the app?
“Funny videos and stuff, that we create, like, it’s stereotypical but it’s funny at the same time. Like you’re describing something that you feel that you know is so true”
“What if you find stuff for youth… in one place? What if you got everything around this area into one place, so it’s not just us but a lot of other kids too”
Any final thoughts?
“If you had them all decorated, with really bright, let’s say, graffiti… like maybe go to Hosier Lane, that would be cool”
Do you think the title still works?
“I don’t know… maybe something shorter”
“Maybe just ‘change in your community’”
“You need to find a pun or something – a pun into the community thing and then put it into it, so they’re like, ‘ah, that’s clever, ah, I’m gonna start reading it”
Many thanks to all the young people for giving up their time and sharing their ideas. Many thanks also to Sacha Neuge and Stephanie Raike at City of Greater Dandenong Youth Services for arranging and supporting our visit.