During National Reconciliation week, I attended many events highlighting the significant role reconciliation must play for Australia to fulfill its great potential. But two events really struck a chord with me.
The first was an event hosted in Vision Valley, Sydney with the lead facilitator being Benson Saulo. Benson is an inspiring young man who is creating waves of change. I met Benson several years ago when speaking at the ‘Young Minds’ conference in Sydney and since then we have maintained regular communication. Benson represents the next group of Indigenous leaders who are determined to create change.
The National Indigenous Youth Leadership Australia brought 50 young aspiring teenagers together for a retreat representing #50ForChange. I was afforded the opportunity to speak with these young men and women about leadership.
What impacted me the most was a distinct passion for change, these future leaders have great dreams and each is committed to seeing the ‘Dreams of today, become tomorrow’s reality’.
They were ambitious and eager so my message to them was simple, the same message shared to me by one of my grandfathers:
“Be bold in your dreams. Be courageous and do everything it takes to see them through.”
The second event was held on the outskirts of the nation’s capital, where the Australian Electoral Commission hosted the National Indigenous Youth Parliament. This event gathered around 50 young adults aged between 18 and 24 from Indigneous communities across Australia.
These exceptional young leaders experienced a mock parliament and formed their own respective political parties with party leaders. They had the opportunity to meet current Indigenous parliamentary members, Nova Peris and Ken Wyatt.
Sitting in a room with these young delegates was both uplifting and confronting. My opening line explained that I felt fraudulent sitting with some Australia’s brightest and most promising leaders. For me, leadership is about, ‘leaving a footprint in the sand - not to show the next generation which way to go, but simply to show them how far we got - so they can push well beyond’.
Listening to their individual determination for change was impactful and it wouldn’t surprise me if one of these young people rose to become the face of the nation.
The next generation is strong and informed, they are passionate and they are arming themselves with education and immense cultural strength. They, like us, are tired of the term ‘disadvantaged’ being associated with Indigenous Australians.
They are standing up to be seen and speaking up to being heard. This wave of young Indigenous leaders – through their collective action – will lead Australia towards the equality of opportunity that our nation deserves and expects.
I look forward to watching and supporting this next generation of aspiring leaders achieve their goals, dreams and aspirations.