A young South Australian’s reflections on Youth Week 2020
By Jo Barry-Murphy, Aged 20
Posted 24th April 2020
Youth Week is an annual occasion to celebrate young people, giving them a platform to express their ideas and views and act on issues that affect their lives. From 17th – 24th April, the week aims to celebrate the contributions young people make and encourage their participation. As someone who has been actively involved in youth-focused community organisations for the past few years, and as a young person myself, it’s strange to be staying home during a time I would usually be up to my neck in event organising. But the subdued nature of my Youth Week 2020 has given me the chance to reflect more deeply on the meaning behind the celebration.
Young people contribute so many unique skills and perspectives to the community. We are very often key drivers of change and progress, channelling enormous amounts of passion and energy into our goals. This was made incredibly clear to me at UN Youth SA’s State Conference 2020, which focused on the theme of Youth Activism in the 21st Century. Over a weekend and early March (fortunately before social distancing measures became necessary), I was lucky enough to work with an amazing group of bright and engaged high school students from across South Australia. These students participated in workshops, crisis simulations, speakers’ panels and model United Nations debates, all with the goal of learning about youth-led social movements in a global context. Despite my years of volunteering and participation in UN Youth events, I am still somehow always blown away by the creative ideas, fierce drive and empathetic nature of SA’s youth.
This is apparent not only when I’m engaging with high school students, but also when I’m working behind the scenes with UN Youth volunteer team to organise these events. UN Youth is Australia’s largest youth-led non-profit and it continues to amaze me how capable and innovative our volunteers, all under the age of 25 and most aged 18-21, are – from organising weekend-long, residential conferences to running month-long study tours all over the world.
UN Youth operates on the belief that young people have the vision and passion to create meaningful change within their communities and throughout the world and aims to equip them with the skills and inspiration to do so. Everything we do is intended to empower young people to be leaders on the world stage. We foster ideas and innovation, and we give young people the inspiration and support they need to create change. Our activities are run for youth and by youth, and I firmly believe that this peer-to-peer education component is crucial reason our programs are so impactful.
What UN Youth showcases – like other youth-led organisations – is that young people do participate in our communities in strong ways. That their contributions are meaningful and diverse. In the midst of this chaos, Youth Week serves a timely reminder for us to celebrate this participation and ensure that we are included in the discourse during and after the current crisis. It is difficult not to think about our uncertain future but more than ever before, we want to be a part of shaping that future. This week, I have been thinking about how grateful I am to be part of this generation of inspiring young people. During these times, I find a lot of confidence in the young people I see around me every day and I hope that young people in SA are given more opportunities to showcase their creative ideas, fierce drive and empathetic nature.
As a State we need to ensure young people in a post-COVID world have opportunities to collaborate, learn from each other and participate in decision making. We know that there are many challenges ahead but my experience in UN Youth has shown that young South Australians have great capacity to work with decision makers in addressing some of most complex issues our State – and world – faces, and they have a large appetite to do so.
Jo is the President of UN Youth SA, the South Australian branch of UN Youth Australia. Each year, UN Youth SA works directly with hundreds of young people through innovative, peer-to-peer education programs, including conferences, competitions, day forums, regional tours and school visits. UN Youth is a volunteer-run organisation, and works closely with schools and other stakeholders across the state to engage young South Australians in global issues.
To find out more about UN Youth head to: https://www.unyouth.org.au/