Introducing the 2016 Australia Youth Representative to the UN – Chris Eigeland
UN Youth: Why did you apply to be Australian Youth Rep?
CE: The UN Youth Rep role is an unparalleled opportunity to consult with young Australians from all walks of life, on issues that are of international significance. The global landscape of business, politics and development is undergoing radical change as a result of new (and arguably democratising) technologies – however this change isn’t occurring evenly, even within a country such as Australia. The role, for me, is about understanding the most pressing challenges facing Australian youth, and linking them back to the opportunities that are arising for generation Y – in entrepreneurship, innovation and social policy.
Can you please give us a little bit of your personal background?
Consistently the shortest kid in class, if not the whole primary school – I lead a double life. I lead the school’s social justice arena as a school councillor and Captain, but at the same time, started my first business. A disagreement in the schoolyard over the comparative strength of Pokémon in battle led to me fill the knowledge gap with character profiles (printed on my parent’s printer and likely creating intellectual property and copyright issues). This tension between the creative arts and the legal and policy arena has stayed with me – my first proper job was as a theme park designer. In a move that surprised even my closest friends, I enrolled in law with the aim of finding more effective ways to enable access to justice.
After dabbling in some smaller social enterprises during secondary education – exposure to the devastating effects of the Haiti earthquake in 2010 shaped a belief in the importance of fundamental education, which has influence much of my path since.
Australia stands on the edge of a phenomenal opportunity. On the cusp of the Asia-Pacific basin, with a uniquely educated and motivated population, our ability to ‘punch above our weight’ on international issues is evident. But I am most looking forward to working with young Australian’s from all walks of life, with a huge variety of inspiring stories. The role of the Youth Rep should be as much about showcasing the work of amazing young Australians as it is about guiding policy.
What do you think will be most challenging aspect?
In my view, the Youth Rep has to strike a balance between grassroots and policy, advice and action. Despite the extensive consultation tour, the sheer diversity in Australia – of experiences, talents and backgrounds, will be a challenge to understand in a single year. In light of this, finding an effective mechanism for engaging youth online will be critical.
What do you want to accomplish as UN Youth Rep?
The UN Youth Rep role has a number of responsibilities, but my aims can be distilled into:
(1) Talk to, and understand, as many groups of young Australians as possible;
(2) Assist in catalysing the involvement of Australian youth in entrepreneurial activities; and
(3) Develop a compelling case for the Australian Government to increase its support for young innovators in Australia
We’ve seen a huge level of disruption in the consumer and business sector through new technologies – but the education, government and health sectors are just at the beginning of this process. I’m hugely excited to see what ideas young Australians have to change how these sectors operate and encourage further equality and transparency.