IMAGINE 250 socially aware and socially motivated teenagers. Imagine no longer! Caritas Australia’s Festival of Global Concern, held in Sydney last weekend, provided the forum for that imagining to become a reality.
I was part of that sea of social conscience, one of four students from my school (Mt St Michael’s College, Ashgrove).
We set out for the conference with a heightened awareness of social justice issues brought about by our involvement in Project Compassion, during Lent.
But I also acknowledge we’re pretty privileged kids. What would we really know about being in need? And how could we really make a difference?
The Festival of Global Concern’s theme was “Generation Y not? Just want justice”. Is that too much to want?
We looked at the eight Millennium Development Goals, set in 2000, to halve global poverty by 2015:
- Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger.
- Achieve universal primary education.
- Promote gender equality and empower women.
- Reduce child mortality.
- Improve maternal health.
- Combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases.
- Ensure environmental sustainability.
- Develop a global partnership for development.
With half-time – 7/7/07 – looming, workshops enabled us to learn how nations were faring and what could be done.
Our itinerary was jammed with speakers with stories to share:
- Tania Major, the awesome indigenous youth activist named 2007 Young Australian of the Year.
- Simon Stroud, an environmental scientist who opened our eyes to what is really going on with the state of our planet.
- Fiona Katauskas, a cartoonist for the Sydney Morning Herald who is using her art to get political messages across.
- Julian Morrow, one of the founding member of The Chaser team, talked to us about using satirical pieces to get our message across like he and his team do in ABC TV’s Chaser’s War on Everything.
- Jonathon Ngor, a former Sudanese refugee, who gave a personal account of the Lost Boys of Sudan.
- Julian Burnside QC, a Melbourne-based barrister who talked about the injustices happening in our refugee camps and how we can make a difference.
- Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez, the Archbishop of Tegucigalpa (Honduras).
Cardinal Rodriguez talked to us about the poverty and injustices in Third World countries and about the upcoming World Youth Day.
He wasn’t a statistical speaker. He shared his own experience, coming from an impoverished background and championing as he does now, the rights of the poor. He made it all seem so vividly, regrettably real.
The festival wasn’t all work. We had time to socialise with other young people around Australia and New Zealand, but as it turns out even this was another way of changing the world.
By networking we are able to use other schools’ ideas in our own school community and hopefully in the outside community as well.
From this conference, both the Mt St Michael’s girls and Marist Ashgrove boys gained a great insight and commitment to marking 7/7/07 with a big event.
Whilst we’re still fresh back from the conference we hope that both our school community and outside communities will support us in the endeavour to mark 7/7/07 with a bang!
The time has come that Generation Y is ready to step up to the challenge and save humanity! Big ideas perhaps. I’m ready for it.
Courtenay Grant-Wakefield is a student at Mt St Michael’s College, Ashgrove, in Brisbane.
Five ways to make a difference
- Eat Fair Trade chocolate and get your parents to drink Fair Trade coffee.
- Use public transport and turn off the light in your bedroom when you’re not in there.
- Get your school to join Project Compassion.
- Become a hopegiver (Caritas’ monthly giving program).
- Learn a few words in a foreign language. “Hello” and “thank you” could be all it takes.