2018 Victorian Youth Summit

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Friday the 20th of April, 2018 marked the second Victorian Youth Summit. The event which was facilitated by the Department of Human and Health services was held at the Melbourne Park Function Centre.

The Summit commenced with speakers Isis Holt and Minister Mikakos. At just 16 years old, Isis participated and won gold at the 7th World Para-Athletics Championships. During her speech Isis discussed the struggles of competing in sports with Cerebral Palsy on top of continuing education, a social life, family life and personal time. 

Minister Jenny Mikakos (Minister for Families, Children and Youth Affairs) made a very brief appearance at the summit, she delivered a short but simple statement of what she wished the summit would achieve which was ultimately “a more inclusive Victoria.”

Following the short speech, Somali-Australian Filmmaker, Ayan Yusuf debuted her film “Bitter sweet” a tale of a young Somali-Australian Teenager, who was adamant on rejecting her Somali roots and simply embracing what Australian culture offered her. It was one particular weekend where her mother took her to her grandmother’s house randomly that she slowly began to acknowledge and take pride in her roots. A reminder to never forget your foundation and roots.

 After a lunch break, the audience was separated into three different workshops, covering empowerment for young voices, representation in the media, and slam poetry.

The media panel was led by Ruby Susan, president of the Melbourne Bisexual Network and included disability activist Bryce Pace, Indigenous-Australian Activist Eleanor Grace West, Owner of Afro-hub Saba Alemayoh, and Founder of Democracy in colour Tim Surdo.

The discussion began with light-hearted questions regarding the upbringing and ideals of the panel. Discussion moved on to cover sexuality at length before hitting a real, and perhaps to some awkward turning point. Race was the headlining issue.

The media itself is very divided on the issue. Social media platforms often boast the struggles of minority communities placing them in a victim mentality on the other hand popular news stations degrade minorities viewing them as “menace to society.” The panel discussed that both sides were very dangerous places to be. Businesses were profiting from both ends of the spectrum. Although an absolute solution was not found Saba, a black woman suggested to the audience to start small by putting their money in businesses that respected all cultures.

She said: “There is so much power in our pockets, we can literally end a business by making the simple decision to buy our goods elsewhere, and trust me you do this for long enough they notice! And they start to ask well hang on what can we do to bring back the customers or better yet their money?”

The discussion faltered when one participant called out the event for being focused on metropolitan problems. Akarna Bowers left the room speechless when she said: “I’m from regional Victoria… I live in a small town called Sale. It is known for its deeply conservative roots. I cannot relate to any of your struggles as we are at least 15 years behind. You guys sit up there and complain about bettering racial, disability and LGBTQI rights, at least you have them and have the ability to have these discussions, I’ll absorb all this information and go home to a town that rejects any notion of the term “rights and representation” It’s important you realise while it’s easy to complain, and with reason of course, learn to also be thankful Melbourne is a deeply diverse city.”

Akarna’s words sunk in deep, audience member’s faces were frozen the event concluded on that note, with people silently escorting themselves out of the building. The summit really opened the minds of young people, equipping and empowering them to be future leaders of Victoria or even the world.

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