In 2011, I was fortunate to undertake a unique opportunity to represent the views and aspirations of young Australians as the Australian Youth Representative to the United Nations. It wasn’t so much as a life changing experience than a life affirming experience, as it provided the platform to build a strong network, challenge my thoughts and continue to establish beliefs I hold today.
These fundamental beliefs include:
- I am my brothers’ keeper and I am my sisters’ keeper; an understanding that we are intrinsically connected to each others future, purpose and happiness;
- We need disciplined non-conformists; the importance of people working outside a system to hold the system accountable, reflective of the people it serves, fair and accessible. We need disciplined non-conformists, whistleblowers and active citizens;
- The most valuable resource to a nation is its people; investing the future of a nation means investing in education, science, the social fabric of communities and the care of our most vulnerable; and
- Building, inventing and creating is part of us; given the space, opportunity and guidance, we are explorers, curious by nature and pioneers.
These beliefs underpinned my Youth Representative Final Report to the Government (Download); which included the following key recommendations:
- Promote schools as community builders;
- In school Human Rights education;
- National Indigenous Youth Advocacy Body; and
- Develop and promote initiatives supporting young changemakers.
Following my 12 month tenure as Youth Representative to the United Nations, I came to the understanding that reports are great, but many reports tend to sit on bookshelves or find themselves under a pile of other unread and rarely acted upon reports.
My report may not have had an impact on policymakers but it has provided me with a measure of what we should strive for into the future. The National Indigenous Youth Leadership Academy is a product of my fundamental beliefs, report recommendations and the life affirming experience. We engage Indigenous young people from communities and schools across Australia to lead positive change through social action campaigns on issues they are passionate about. In May 2014, we will bring 50 Indigenous young people together to develop 5 youth-led campaigns on:
- Education; Lifelong Learning
- Health; Healthy lifestyles
- Mental Health; Ending the stigma
- GBLTI Young People; Safe and Happy Communities
- Juvenile Justice; Breaking the Cycle.
It has been sometime since I have been inspired by Australian politics. It is the combination of shortsightedness, bitterness and the lack of accountability that sends chills down my spine whenever I open a newspaper. It concerns me that, we as a nation have grown tired of broken promises, cloak and dagger politics that we are simply switching off and tuning out. It is the time we should be switching on, asking questions and expecting more.
“It was character that got us out of bed, commitment that moved us into action, and discipline that enabled us to follow through.” Zig Zigar
My theory of change is simple; Australia’s most valuable resource is its people, our most valuable investment in accessible formal and non-formal education and our most valuable commitment we can make to achieve these is our ability to advocate and participate in the public and political discourse at all levels.
How we achieve this is still a work in progress but watch this space…