Finding My Voice
They say that representation is only changed by a mass of voices and stories. In September 2016, committed to that idea, I started The Young Asian Australians’ Journal (TYAAJ) to help better represent the dynamically diverse and unique demographics of Australia today.
The journey for TYAAJ began in April, when I travelled to Canberra to compete in UN Youth Australia’s Voice National Finals. There, I met some incredible likeminded young individuals, who all had a passion and desire to change the world for the better. At that time I was admittedly unmotivated, and without a goal greater than myself. I was a Year 11 student whose only goal at that time was to make it through high school alive and mostly unscarred. Before going to Canberra, Voice was no big deal for me. It was a fun competition that was radically different from anything I’d ever done, and that was that as far as I was concerned.
However, at National finals it became clear that Voice was a lot more than a competition. The entire week in Canberra became more than listening to other amazing speeches and presenting my own comparatively dismal speech. It became all about the amazing people I met. Voice was incredible, and its wide range of finalists from all over the country showed me the diversity of the inspiring, confident, leaders and thinkers of tomorrow.
Voice also gave me amazing opportunities to workshop and meet with young adults in their twenties who actually get what it’s like to be a millennial. My facilitators Cormac and Katie were absolute inspirations to me, and not only were able to ensure I had a safe time, but also a fantastic time. The other facilitators I’ve met are also wonderful, proactive members of society, who aren’t afraid to tackle challenges and question things, and that sort of attitude has made my social circles so much more engaging and rewarding.
Voice also hosted incredible speaker panels for us, specifically on advocacy, policy and finding solutions to impending global problems. The chance to be in the same room with such influential figures was an absolutely empowering opportunity, and greatly inspired myself and the other finalists.
Having now also participated in the Evatt National finals in Sydney, I can only reaffirm everything I’ve already mentioned about UN Youth events. I met more amazing people, reunited with old friends, listened in on incredibly contemporary speaker panels, talked to Tanya Plibersek, and have a morning tea with UN General Consulates.
I could go on forever and ever about the friends you make, the wonderful facilitators you get to hang out with, and the amazing speaker panels and opportunities you get, but the biggest thing that UN Youth can do for you is unearth a desire within you to change the world. Before Voice I was complacent about current affairs in Australia and internationally. I didn’t care for the civil crisis in Syria, the state of the environment in the Amazon, the abuse of human rights in Russia, or the racial and political turmoil in the USA. I was in my own little bubble, happy with how things were going. Although UN Youth Australia is quite obviously, an Australian organisation, it still does so much to open your eyes to the rest of the world.
Getting back from Voice, which was such a positive and empowering experience, I decided that I needed to pay a bit more attention to the big world around me. Bad things are happening, and bad things will continue to happen if none of us decide to make any change. I realised, if there was a problem that faced us as individuals, if we didn’t do anything about it, who would? I soon recognised that the discrimination against Asian Australians, and Asians broadly, was largely dismissed and not talked about. I realised we didn’t have the proper representation we deserved, in the media or in society. It was from then, I started working with my friends and family to draft the beginnings of The Young Asian Australians Journal, and today it’s alive and well. It’s is not an easy project, but UN Youth has given me the confidence to take it on, and has made me believe that it’s worth all the effort to fight for what I believe is right.
The Young Asian Australians Journal is only a small component of what I can do to help make the world a better place however. I’ve also been keeping an eye out on politics, foreign affairs, crises, donating where I can, saving the bees, signing petitions, eating sustainably, helping to improve others’ mental health. Being a part of the UN Youth community helps to keep me in touch with the relevant issues that face us as Australian youths and for that I am thankful.
The next thing I say might sound a tad cult-like, but engaging with UN Youth really does become a lifestyle. If you make the most of the opportunities given, engage with the people you meet and follow through on the inspirations they give you, then UN Youth ceases to be just an organisation that throws really cool competitions. It becomes a lifestyle and compass that allows you to be the best version of yourself, change what you can, and advocate for what you believe in. You can start as early as Year 7 and continue to do amazing events; Voice, Crisis Point, State Conference, National Conference, Evatt, all the amazing tours, and then further your involvement as a Facilitator after high school ends.
What I’ve written may sound deliriously positive, insightful and maybe a bit too good to be true, but take that as a testament to how truly life changing UN Youth is. If you told me last year that I’d be part of such a proactive aware community; that I’d have travelled to Canberra and Sydney in the same year; that I’d have met powerful international representatives and in the process unlocked my full potential; to that I’d have started a blog that unites Asian Australians from across the nation to talk about what matters to them most, I would not have believed you.
I was sitting in my Year 10 Academic Extension HASS class, when my teacher announced that UN Youth was holding its regional rounds of the Voice competition. Without much motivation or reason, I put my hand up and decided to take on the opportunity simply because I had nothing to lose. Since then, I’ve come a long way and grown considerably as a person.
That very much sums up the sentiment of UN Youth Australia. In anything you do with them, you’ll have nothing to lose, and a guaranteed win somewhere. UN Youth’s programs are all about capitalising on opportunities and taking the risks you need to, to become a confident young leader. My path with the organisation certainly started off on capitalising on opportunities, and I can guarantee you I’ll leave that path making the risks I need to.
You really can’t appreciate or realise the weight of an UN Youth experience like I’ve described it, till you try it.
What are you waiting for?