LAST week, delegates from across Australia, the United States and the Asia-Pacific region gathered in Canberra for the 53rd annual United Nations Youth Australia National Conference. Following the mock-UN style debate in Albert Hall on Friday the 11th of July, delegates assembled at New Parliament House for the official close of a momentous week.
Throughout the week, delegates harnessed their diplomacy skills to tackle issues of both national and global importance. The conference focused on the theme “Forces of Change”, which challenged delegates to analyse the role and effectiveness of different levels of advocacy, particularly grass-root social movements.
Facilitated by UN Youth Australia, delegates analysed their role and power as young people within the democratic process. Interactive workshops provided delegates with the skills they need to influence public policy and create change in their local community.
The delegates collectively voiced their concerns on pressing global issues by writing a series of recommendations presented to the federal member for Canberra, Gai Brodtmann and the ACT opposition minister for youth, Andrew Wall. In this document, delegates proposed constructive solutions to social and human rights issues, including refugees and asylum seekers, peace and security, racial discrimination and the environment. The Youth Declaration provided a fitting conclusion to the weeklong discussion on the ways in which young citizens can drive policy change at both a local and national level.
Debates took place at iconic Australian institutions across Canberra. These included the Senate and House of Representatives at the Museum of Australian Democracy, the National Library and the High Court, with workshops at the Australian National University. The conference was made possible with the generous sponsorship of the ACT Government through the Office for Children, Youth and Family Support and the Australian National University.
Young people often feel that the distinction between “us” as students and “them” as world leaders is too broad of a gap to breach. Delegates at the UN Youth National Conference this year proved that young Australians do have the initiative and drive to cross this divide and indeed take part in the public debate.
To get involved with UN Youth Australia, find us on Facebook or at http://unyouth.org.au.
Written by Rebecca Bayliss