Statement delivered on the 26th July 2011 at the United Nations General Assembly – High Level Meeting on Youth
As the 2011 Australian Youth Representative it gives me great pleasure to represent the views, hopes and optimism of Australian youth in today’s discussion.
I am the first Aboriginal Australian to be appointed to the youth representative position since it began in 1999. It is not only a great honour but a wonderful reflection on the young people of Australia who promote and support an inclusive and equal society.
It has been a privilege meeting with and listening to Australia’s youth share their hopes and aspirations for the future of our nation.
I am proud to say that the youth of Australia and the Australian government share a common vision, which is reflected in the commitments laid out in our National Strategy for Young Australians:
“That all young people grow up safe, healthy, happy and resilient, and have the opportunities and skills they need to learn, work and engage in community life, and influence decisions that affect them.”
Our National Strategy identifies eight key priorities including Health, Education and empowering young people to have a voice and be active in their communities.
I am a firm believer that access to relevant, formal, informal and alternate education is key to address areas that continue to affect Australian youth in all areas of society from overcoming disadvantage to influencing the current and future direction of our nation.
In the recent ‘Listen to Children’ report produced by UNICEF it noted that;
“There are specific groups of children who are not always afforded the same educational opportunities as other students, denying capacity to fulfill their potential. These groups include: Aboriginal children, children from refugee and newly arrived backgrounds and children with disabilities.”
During my National Tour, I attending a school in a small remote town in Northern Territory, a part of Australia that has had particular focus on ‘Closing the Gap’ between Indigenous and Non-Indigenous Australians within the Key Indicators of Life Expectancy, Employment and Educational outcomes. The Principal walked me around the school advising that no student has graduated high school in this town for the past seven years. As we continued, he then pointed out three young girls and one young boy, only in grade eight. He said ‘these four students have the potential to be the first in their family and community to graduate high school and break the cycle of disadvantage within this town.”
Beyond our shores, Australia is focussed on supporting education programs throughout Asia, the pacific and the world.
In Indonesia, Australia is helping to build over 4000 schools, enabling 650,000 children from the poorest families to receive a decent education. In Pakistan we are supporting the enrollment of 46,000 girls in rural primary schools. The empowerment of young girls in Laos through education is being realised with the increase of primary education completion rates from 60 per cent in 2005 to 72 per cent in 2008, with a ratio of 84 girls enrolled for every 100 boys.
Enabling young people with disabilities to have access to education is a large component of the support Australia provides within the AsiaPacific region. Australia provides support for the transition from primary to secondary school for children with hearing impairment and intellectual disabilities in Samoa. We are supporting the Papua New Guinean Department of Education to produce disability inclusive infrastructure guidelines for schools.
One of the reports key recommendations was for;
Australia to establish an independent National Children’s Commissioner with the specific tasked responsibility of: establishing the strategic direction for youth based policy development.”
This will be the next big step for Australia and will ensure young peoples voices are heard and youth services are adequately resourced and implemented. A national children’s commissioner will also complement the youth peak bodies and youth forums currently engaging young people and advocating on their behalf.
While there are many challenges and obstacles that face young people in Australia and indeed globally, the sense of optimism in the future is evident throughout communities, thanks to the open and frank dialogue we have been engaged in over the past few days.
It was a enormous honour to address the general assembly. With time restraints of 3.5mins a lot of the areas I wished to highlight weren’t possible however working with the Australian Permanent Mission the areas of focus within this statement will lead very well into my final statement at the 66th Session of the General Assembly in September.
For all nations that made a statement (over 105 registered speakers) there were only 5 representatives of youth. The other speakers were made up of Heads of State, Ministers, Ambassadors and Representatives of NGO’s.
I feel it was important to highlight the benefits of implementing an Independent National Children and Young Peoples Commission as the commissioner will not only add value to the positive areas within the youth sector and services but will identify areas that need improvement in all areas of the Youth landscape.
Education was a common theme throughout the 2day High Level Meeting. It was very promising to see that governments from around the world understood the challenges they currently face and shared ways to overcome these challenges. It was also very promising to see a large number of young people who are passionate about making positive change in their nations and the world.
Watch the Webcast of my statement – here
View photos of the presentation on Facebook – here
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