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A seat at the table

For many young people, having a say on world issues seems out of reach. After all, who would listen to an inexperienced young person who has not seen ‘the real world’ for what it is yet? The answer may surprise you.

I won’t lie. Not everyone will take you seriously. This is simply the nature of your existence as a human being. Yet, more and more government bodies and organisations around the world are looking to youth perspectives to provide insights into how they can improve moving forwards. 

Before, there was no seat at the table for young people in such affairs. We were deemed too inexperienced, or simply, too young to deal with contentious issues. But with the topics of the environment, education, consent, and discrimination increasingly impacting young people, wouldn’t it make sense to consult the future leaders of the world on issues that concern them? Yes. 100%. It would make perfect sense to do so. This is the ‘real world’, and we are living in it. A seat at the table is finally making itself visible for young people who want to create a change.

Since becoming the Youth Member for Gaven on the sunny Gold Coast, I have personally learned the importance of networking and stepping out of one’s comfort zone in seeking to engage with other people to create change. It is true that young people are not only future leaders, but today’s changemakers, and this is applicable to all parts of the world.

The world itself is a complicated, beautiful mess. It is full of triumphs and tribulations which inspire us all to look further than ourselves and question everything – something that is increasingly important in the social media age. So how can young people make a difference?

The truth is that in any team, your outcomes are only going to be as strong as the advice behind it. Pushing oneself to seek differing perspectives can make or break a project. If you consult with someone with a completely different worldview to you, you can create outcomes that accommodate for both your needs, instead of overlooking someone’s perspective. In practice, this can look like what the member states of the United Nations do. Nations negotiate treaties that are mutually beneficial in the interest of facilitating world peace and economic prosperity.

Recently, I was fortunate enough to be awarded the first Ambassadorship for the Bond University High School Model United Nations. This program educates young people about the role and functions of the United Nations and helps them to debate real issues and solutions in order to inspire substantial change. This year, my committee was charged with the challenge of creating a resolution (basically a list of suggestions) centred around protecting the rights of refugee women through participation in the UNHCR Refugee Model United Nations Challenge. To put that into perspective, the United Nations states that almost 80 million people have been forced to flee their homes recently, and our resolution was to be sent to the UNHCR for their consideration in future refugee-centred policy. To be able to have an impact on the lives of millions of refugees is a powerful and humbling feeling. To be able to do this as a young person is even more empowering. The very fact that the United Nations itself is seeking youth perspectives shows that world leaders are realising that, to survive as a human race, young people’s ideas need to be brought to the table.

To do this to the best of our ability, we need to be able to push ourselves. We need to ask questions and look to challenge ourselves so that we can learn and grow. There are many organisations that you can get involved in to achieve this. For example, I recently had the privilege of being selected for and taking part in United Nations Youth Australia’s Young Diplomats Tour, where we learned about and made contributions to conversations around the European Union’s international relations. In taking part in this program, we were able to engage with industry professionals and academics who helped us to widen our perspectives. It is through such opportunities, as well as professional development and a genuine drive to create change, that we can adequately prepare ourselves to take our seat at the table.

There is something to be said about how fresh perspectives could impact the world around us. There is also much our generation has to say regarding the state of our world, whether it be socially, economically, or environmentally. The simple truth is that we can never be sure of where our contributions will take future decision making. Perhaps we will have a cultural shift that completely changes our beliefs. Whilst nothing is constant, paradoxically, one thing is certain; the world would be a better place if the concerns, opinions, and perspectives of young people are not only considered, but highlighted, in high-level decisions. 

It is easy to make a start. Have a look at these opportunities-

  • Sign up for Amplify Youth - the QFCC’s Youth Participation Mailout
  • Take part in United Nations Youth Australia’s events
  • Consider taking part in the Bond University High School Model United Nations
  • Contact your local councillor, state or federal member.

The world will be a better place when you take your seat at the table.