On Friday 27th February, CommonYouth Australia was launched at the ANU Centre of China in the World, cementing the new initiative as a platform for youth to engage with the values of the Commonwealth.
Founded by ANU students Nishant Rao, Monica Dalton and Carys Atkinson, the organisation’s primary objective is to correct the perception amongst youth that the Commonwealth is no longer relevant in today’s global community.
They aim to do this by educating students of the importance of the Commonwealth as a forum for global social change.
This was emphasised by Rao during Friday night’s opening address. “With 60% of the Commonwealth’s population across 53 countries being under the age of 30, it’s pivotal for the Commonwealth’s continued success that youth are aware of, and engaged in, its role.”
The CommonYouth committee also took time to outline the organisation’s upcoming events. Monthly themes orient CommonYouth’s event calendar and include topics such as health, freedom of expression, democracy, access to education and gender equality. Trips to embassies, meet-and-greet events as well as round-table discussions are just several of the proposed ideas to engage young people in learning about the Commonwealth.
A highlight of the evening was the panel of exceptional speakers comprised of the Oxfam Australia Board of Directors, Alan Wu, 2014 Australian Youth Representation to the UN, Laura John, as well as Young Canberra Citizen of the Year and Founder of GG’s Flowers, Nipuni Wijewickrema.
A common theme throughout the panelists’ remarks was the importance of including young people in the decision-making processes for global social change.
Wu, who is also the founding member of Global Shapers Melbourne Hub, spoke to the value of using one’s initiative to seek out opportunities.
“[Taking initiative] enables students to overcome the primary boundaries of limited funding and less established networks to exercise their right to community participation”.
Similarly, John highlighted the importance of not being mainstream and being content with creating your own space. “If you can’t find a way through the front door; find a window or a back door.”
Wijewickrema spoke of her own journey to establishing youth-empowerment through GG’s Flowers; a florist creating equality in the workforce by employing people with disabilities.
The panelists urged the audience to be involved in organisations that provide opportunities for them to serve their communities. And with partner institutions across the globe, CommonYouth Australia certainly seems to facilitate that opportunity.