Shea Spierings: UN Youth Rep 2015
Firstly, would you mind sharing a bit of your background with us?
After leaving school I worked as a labourer in construction, before moving on to work in security at which point I began studying a Cert IV in Adult Tertiary Prep, which would allow me to enter uni. I graduated from TAFE in late 2010 then spent the following year working, once again, in construction to save up enough money to begin studying in 2012. While I studied International Relations and Peace and Conflict Studies at the University of Queensland I was also involved in mentoring roles for indigenous youth, as well as working to organise NAIDOC events and raise awareness of indigenous issues. Before I started studying I volunteered in everything from secondhand stores to cattle farms (farmers required much-needed help following the 2011 floods in Queensland). I choose to volunteer because I just like to help out. When helping others you are always provided with the most fulfilling experiences.
Why do you think it’s so important to have a UN Youth Rep and what were your reasons for applying to be the rep for this year?
I think it’s important that all Australian’s have a voice and that the policy makers hear it. Unfortunately, I think that too much of Australia’s youth feel completely disconnected from the greater Australian political narrative because they find it hard to relate to today’s politicians. For me, applying for this role was about being the voice for all of Australia’s youth, but I’m particularly interested in engaging with members of the Australian youth community who are disadvantaged.
What do you think are the most pertinent issues facing young people today?
I personally think that the youth of today are facing issues never before known. They face a future standard of living that is likely to be less than that faced by their parents, which in itself is cause for concern. Also, a lack of clear and distinct representation in Australia’s highest levels of Government is not reassuring. Then there are the usual suspects – education, employment and access to opportunities to further our own individual capacities in the manner we so choose. Ultimately I believe that there needs to be recognition that the youth of today face different challenges and in order to effectively address the issues created by these challenges policy makers need to avoid prescriptive policy-making and engage in more consultation and collaboration.
What are your passions?
Haha, my passions…in the context of youth, I’m passionate about creating more effective and permanent support networks for young people across the country. I’m also passionate about local community engagement in the sense that I believe in supporting the place within which I live, however if I have the opportunity to offer support on broader scale (like I do now) then that is beyond exciting. I am also passionate about reading, thinking critically and asking questions; I personally think that critical thinking skills need to be encouraged more in our education system.
Further, I enjoy boxing, photography, videography, reading, and playing my Xbox one!
What are you most looking forward to in the year ahead?
Quite simply, I’m just looking forward to getting out there and meeting as many of Australia’s young people as possible. It’s always invigorating to find out what people are getting up to in their local areas and how they create change. However, I also appreciate the opportunity to engage with local communities that are struggling to enact change and face entrenched disadvantage as sometimes witnessing how people cope with adversity is an inspiring, yet humbling, experience.
I’m excited for New York, as I’ve never been, and also the opportunity to see more of Australia.
What are your personal goals for the upcoming year and have you got a game plan to tackle them?
Personally I would really like to exceed engagement levels reached by my predecessors, that’s not so much a competitive goal, but rather a goal to ensure that my final report, and contained recommendations, truly and accurately represent the interests of Australian youth. I also want to ensure that I engage with a youth from a variety of backgrounds.