Delivery of the National Youth Statement to the United Nations by Shea Spierings
On October 7, the Australian Youth Delegate to the United Nations (UN), Mr Shea Spierings, delivered the Australian Statement on Youth Issues to the UN General Assembly. The National statement, which was drafted by Mr Spierings himself along with support from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, as well as other relevant Government Departments, outlined the important role that education plays in ensuring Australian society continues to remain peaceful, tolerant, and inclusive.
Before becoming the Australian Youth Delegate, Spierings came from humble beginnings working as a concreter and steel fixer, then as a Security Guard, before entering University at the age of 22. Mr Spierings stated that his diverse working background has proved invaluable when engaging with the youth of today, who come from a variety of backgrounds and possess a variety of lived experiences and aspirations.
This year Spierings has endeavoured to engage with as many young Australians as possible from across Australia. To achieve this, he conducted consultations with youth, youth-focused Non-Government Organisations (NGOs), and policy makers, from each state and territory where possible. Finally, after consulting several thousand young people across the country, Spierings identified education, employment and career prospects, drug and substance abuse, racism and discrimination, and gender inequality, as the key areas of concern for Australian youth. Mr Spierings also noted the strong presence of resilience and determination within the Australian youth community and stated that he will continue to encourage further support for youth-led initiatives and programs that seek to address seemingly intractable social issues.
While at the UN Spierings worked to reaffirm the need for flexible and innovative learning environments that adequately meet the needs of youth both in Australia and across the globe. He also noted concern over the continued application of industrialised education systems in areas that demonstrated a need for a more flexible learning environments. He stated that countries hoping to recognise their demographic dividend would need to formulate effective education policies, which made flexible, and relevant, learning environments available to youth. Mr Spierings also reaffirmed the need for the recognition of the lived experience of youth in Australia, and the international community, if the international community hopes to realise the newly launched Sustainable Development Goals.
Spierings was honoured to be one of only 193 young people from the around world invited to attend the Opening Ceremony of the Sustainable Development Summit where he stood alongside his peers, which included Nobel Laureate Malala Yousefzai, as they heard world leaders declare their intention to implement the newly declared Sustainable Development Goals which are aimed at addressing key social issues that are negatively impacting upon societies across the globe.
At the end of delivering the Australian Statement on youth issues, Spierings stated that “Education is the cornerstone of a decent life.”, as he declared that Australia, and the international community, need to place education at the top of their policy agendas if we, as an international community, hope to achieve the newly declared Sustainable Development Goals by 2030.
Spierings is now back in Australia attending to speaking roles and developing policy recommendations which will be delivered in an end of year report in December. The report will be delivered to the Department of Foreign Affairs as well as made publicly available online.