Young Australians take recommendations to world leaders at Global Development Summit by Rebecca Bayliss

By · 27 June, 2014 · Features

What does the term ‘youth advocacy’ mean in Australia? The perception that young people are idealists – dreamers, really – is not uncommon. For some, it would be easy to conclude that young Australians fail to participate in, let alone influence, the public debate. However, attendance and passion displayed at the recent Global Development Summit (GDS) events have proven that this in fact is far from the truth.

Students have gathered together at various GDS events over the past few weeks and demonstrated that yes, indeed, young Australians do contribute towards the public agenda. Facilitated by UN Youth Australia, the events provided an opportunity for students nationwide to raise their concerns on economic policies, and propose their own solutions to some of Australia’s most pressing social issues. The day culminated in each delegate writing a “Youth Declaration” – a series of recommendations that will be handed to our politicians at the upcoming Y20 Summit, the youth branch of the G20.

Through a series of workshops, delegates scrutinised Australia’s current models for sustainable economic development and identified key priority issues. These concerns will be presented to both national and foreign decision-makers at upcoming international forums. At the GDS in Canberra, these visions included the need to tackle climate change, combatting teenage mental illness, increasing Australia’s foreign aid and ensuring universal education and healthcare access.

In Canberra delegates were joined by Australian UN Youth representative, Laura John, and Y20 member, Laura Sobels. Both these representatives will ensure that young Australians have a seat among world leaders at the “decision-making” table by taking the delegates’ proposals to the United Nations General Assembly and the Y20 Summit later in the year.

Member of the Australian delegation to the Y20, Laura Sobels, provided the essential link from grassroots to power at Canberra’s GDS. Laura challenged delegates to analyse Australia’s most pressing economic challenges, and encouraged delegates to identify the necessary changes that they believe world leaders need to make. In doing so, they developed campaign strategies that aimed at influencing specific areas of public policy.

Laura John is the Australian UN Youth representative, and will travel to the United Nations Headquarters this September to share the most prevalent concerns of young Australians. At the GDS she spoke of the importance of delegates realising their ‘great perhaps’ – their visions for the future – and the need to work towards achieving these goals. When asked about the stigma of young Australians as ‘lazy’ or ‘disinterested’ in public policy, Laura discussed how in fact, this generation is engaged more than ever, but has turned away from traditional political parties.


“The reason why we’re doing this [the GDS] is because we feel that there are other ways that we can have a meaningful influence on the agenda. … These organisations [such as Y20 and UN Youth] play a really important role in giving young people both the experience and skills to start influencing public policy,” Laura told GDS delegates.

Young people often feel that the distinction between “us” as students and “them” as world leaders is too broad of a gap to cross. Delegates at the Global Development Summit in Canberra, and indeed across Australia, proved that young Australians have the initiative and drive to cross this divide and challenge our nation’s development policies. We, at UN Youth Australia, look forward to seeing the imprint these recommendations will be sure to make on the world stage later this year.

Missed the GDS? You can still take part in the Y20 conversation online at or on Twitter at #Y20AUS.





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