Monthly Archives: November 2011


So you might have heard that a TEDx event is happening right here in the Riverland this weekend!!

Yep, that’s right 3 Sessions of inspiring speakers and ideas worth sharing modeled on TED talks ( right here in the Riverland!

This Saturday 19th November 2-6pm at the Renmark Institute. Check out the Packed Program – TEDxYouth@Renmark Program 2011

Bring a cushion and some munchies and stay for as many or as few as you like.

The event is completely free and brought to you courtesy of Riverland Youth Connect and Alysha Herrmann with support from TEDxAdelaide and Berri Barmera YACU.

In the spirit of ideas worth spreading, TED has created a program called TEDx.

TEDx is a program of local, self-organized events that bring people together to share a TED-like experience. Our event is call TEDxYouth@Renmark, where x=independently organized TED event. At our TEDxYouth@Renmark event, TEDTalks video and live local speakers will combine to spark deep discussion and connection in a small group.

TEDxYouth@Riverland is an offshoot of TEDxAdelaide to conincide with TEDxYouth day.

The TED Conference provides general guidance for the TEDx program, but individual TEDx events, including ours, are self-organized.

There is also an opportunity for you to speak about something that matters to you within the themes of the event!! After the official close there will be an opportunity for anyone who wants to speak on the day for up to 4 minutes each!!

The global theme of TEDxYouth Day is: Play, Learn, Build & Share. and our event along with TEDxYouth@Adelaide is specifically focusing on SHARE and asking the question “What can you share with the world?”.

Although the event is designed to upskill, inspire and celebrate young people aged 16-30, the speakers insights also have something to offer for people outside of that age range so don’t be afraid to come along and check it out.

About TED

TED is a nonprofit organization devoted to Ideas Worth Spreading. Started as a four-day conference in California 26 years ago, TED has grown to support those world-changing ideas with multiple initiatives. At TED, the world’s leading thinkers and doers are asked to give the talk of their lives in 18 minutes. Talks are then made available, free, at TED speakers have included Bill Gates, Jane Goodall, Elizabeth Gilbert, Sir Richard Branson, Benoit Mandelbrot, Philippe Starck, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Isabel Allende and former UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown. Two major TED events are held each year: The TED Conference takes place every spring in Long Beach, California (along with a parallel conference, TEDActive, in Palm Springs), and TEDGlobal is held each summer in Edinburgh, Scotland.

TED’s media initiatives include, where new TEDTalks are posted daily; the new TED Conversations, enabling broad conversations among TED fans; and the Open Translation Project, which provides subtitles and interactive transcripts as well as the ability for any TEDTalk to be translated by volunteers worldwide.

TED has established the annual TED Prize, where exceptional individuals with a wish to change the world are given the opportunity to put their wishes into action; TEDx, which offers individuals or groups a way to host local, self-organized events around the world; and the TED Fellows program, helping world-changing innovators from around the globe to become part of the TED community and, with its help, amplify the impact of their remarkable projects and activities.

This independent TEDx event (TEDxYouth@Renmark) is operated under license from TED.

CHOGM Opening and saying Goodbye to CYF 2011

As one of the Commonwealth Youth Forum Delegates flying out after 4pm on Friday 28th October I was lucky enough to receive an invitation to the official Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting Opening.

It was quite a long process to get there and get in with all the security and then quite a bit of boring standing around waiting to go in so I won’t bore you too much with a detailed account of the lead up other than to say the waiting area was a flood of people from every background you can imagine and I had a VERY interesting conversation with a woman who’d been attending the People’s Forum. I won’t get her in trouble by revealing her role or name but will share with you the essence of what she said – The People’s Forum was a complete waste of time. People at the top had orchestrated and determined the outcome long before anyone arrived and there was no genuine two way dialogue at all. This was a particularly interesting conversation to have in light of my concerns regarding the structures underpinning the Commonwealth Youth Forum (which I’ll talk about in detail in another blog to be linked here).

Once we finally made it into the venue (Perth Convention & Exhibition Centre) we were pleasantly surprised to discover that we were only 4 rows back from the action. You could almost see the pores of people on stage! The stage had obviously been purpose built for the event with the colours and themes of the Commonwealth Logo evident including a sliding door in the centre of the stage branded with the CHOGM logo (in the foyer we’d also been given bottles of water with the CHOGM logo so they’d gone all out).

CHOGM Opening invite, official lanyard for ID, program and one of the groovy water bottles!

The opening started by welcoming the Heads of Government onto the Stage where they were seated by very well dressed ushers on either side of the stage. Our PM The Honourable Julie Gillard, Secretary General Kamalesh Sharma, The Honourable Kamla Persad-Bissessar MP (Prime Minister of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago where the 2009 CHOGM was held) and Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II Head of the Commonwealth were seated last on the same side of the stage as we were sitting.

Speeches by these last four dignitaries were interspersed with Australian Cultural Performances led by, what to me, was a very moving welcome to country. The cultural performances included a dance piece from an Indigenous Dance Company, a dance from Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts Dancers and lastly a song performed by Guy Sebastian with Next Step dance company.

I was actually incredibly moved by the whole ceremony. I didn’t expect to be. I’m a bit cynical about the money being spent and the lack of action on the ground from Governments everywhere and I expected to be less than impressed. Instead I felt a deep sense of connection to myself as an Australian, and perhaps more importantly a sense of reaching out to and connection with myself as a citizen of the world.

In particular I was touched by the Indigenous Dance and the Welcome to country as a mentioned earlier which again made me question where our sense of Pride in our Indigenous community is here in the Riverland. Sadly I feel our Riverland region often (accidentally or on purpose I’m still not sure) has a deep separation between a mainstream culture that is predominantly white and westernised and between our Indigenous people and our migrant communities. The Riverland is inhabited by a diverse range of people’s from many cultures and backgrounds and I feel that we don’t reach out to each other enough (or in the rights ways) and that there is a lot of fear about asking questions about each other.

I want to reach out. I want to know who we are as a community and what that means and what it could mean in the future. I want all of our people to feel able and proud to identify as a Riverlander.

There are seeds growing in me this year. So many seeds.

The CHOGM opening concluded with a quick dash to the waiting bus and heading back to the hotel for some final goodbyes before catching my flight home – just in time I might add to miss the grounding of all Qantas flights! There were many CYF delegates who ended up being stranded for a number of days but I was lucky enough to get out in time and arrive as scheduled.

I arrived home approximately 9.40pm, stopped at a friend’s house in Plympton for a quick coffee and to pick up my car before embarking on the 3 hour drive home! I arrived in the wee hours of the morning and rather than heading straight to bed percolated on the week that had been by sharing it with my wonderful (and recently engaged!) fiancée.

Then it was back to the real world. Time to reflect.To Think. To Plan. This experienced isn’t over for me yet as this is still so much to pick apart and the most important of questions – what happens next? As a contingent, a group of 130 delegates from 54 nations we proposed 15 recommendations to the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting, but what happens to them now. What happens if we all just go back to our lives?

Probably nothing, which is why a dedicated and passionate group of us have committed to continue agitating for action. That group has today sent a formal letter to our PM The Honourable Julie Gillard and Minister for Youth The Honourable Peter Garrett asking for a meeting to discuss the outcomes of the forum – I’ll let you know what happens next!

It’s been an absolutely amazing ride and I’m still in the process of collecting all my thoughts and adding to blogs from during the week so please do check back and please do ask questions if there is something I’ve missed and not given enough detail about.

Also – here is the official CHOGM Communiqué – COMMUNIQUE CHOGM 2011 and you can read the recommendations from the Commonwealth Youth Forum Communiqué from my Day 4 blog here.

Final day of CYF 2011 (Day 4)

So after a long night of Consensus we had a super quick breakfast and trudged in for round 2 of consensus early Thursday morning.

Our group broached our new proposal, which took into account the frustrations of the previous night by instead suggesting to have one recommendation with the other recommendations as an appendix. After some back and forth the compromise was reached that all recommendations would form the Communiqué but our proposal would be positioned as a ‘Core Recommendations’ with the other recommendations following as ‘Supporting Recommendations’. This compromise of course slightly missed the point of thinking outside the box but I was comforted that there at least been a slight shift in thinking and that delegates had the opportunity to have the conversation.

We made much quicker and relevant progress now that everyone had a night’s rest on them, however it seemed we might run out of time particularly as we needed to vacate the room for Closing ceremony rehearsals to occur.

With some quick shifting into a new space and many people eating their lunch standing up we continued on with consensus right up until 2.30 when the Closing Ceremony began (many people didn’t even have time to change into their formal clothes).

Closing ceremony included handing over the 2011 legacy items to our Sri Lankan delegates (as Sri Lanka is slotted as the next CHOGM host in 2013), another Haka by some of the Pacific Islanders boys (and guest Lockie Cooke from the Planning team). Speeches, speeches and more speeches as per the course for any Closing ceremony and the sharing of a lovely video of our activities taken during the week.

Sri Lankan delegates with Aussie Francis and one of the CYF 2011 Legacy Items

The official closing was followed by a mad rush of people trying to get photos with one another and their flags before we convened again to determine the 4 CYF representatives for the Sunday Youth Dialogue (as I mentioned being one of the issues raised on Day 3). Delegates separated into their four regions and our Pacific region elected Planning Team Member Ellie as our rep for her hard work and understanding of both the Aussie and Islander perspectives.

L-R: John Loughton, Alysha Herrmann, Lockie Cooke. John and Lockie were the facilitators of our thematic group and they did a phenomenal job of supporting, provoking and inspiring us throughout the week

Seb, as the spokesperson and face of our group then invited those who wanted to agitate for action on our Communiqué to stay behind and address how we might move forward post CYF. We ended up having somewhat of a cyclic conversation regarding how and what a working group for the Core Recommendation might look like that didn’t really reach a conclusion other than that we should have one. I would’ve loved to be able to put my hand up for this but recognise that I don’t have the charisma, pull, skills or experience to do this justice at this time – however I am absolutely committed to being a support person for this group and contributing where I can.

A small group of us then stayed behind to tease out the key messages of the communiqué into one document for delegates to use when creating media messages or talking about the forum so that we all stay on the same page and get those messages out loud and clear.

Perhaps the loudest of these messages throughout the 4 official days of the forum is: The 1.2 billion youth of the Commonwealth want more than a voice, we want to have the power to act

This little group were then almost late for dinner and the ‘after party’ where delegates shared food and a final night of dancing. The dancing took a while to take off at Fly By Night but when it did, it was again joyous, generous and deliriously FUN! A great night to cap off an exhausting, riveting, frustrating, full week of learning for me.

I’ve attached some photos from the crazy post closing ceremony period and here is a PDF copy of the Final Communiqué as presented to Her Majest Queen Elizabeth II and provided to CHOGM. CYF 2011 Communique FINAL

The Pacific Boys teach Aussie boy Francis the Haka post CYF Closing Ceremony

Post Closing Ceremony photos were happening everywhere!

Me & Al-Karim, Canadian delegate and 1 of 2 Rappatuers for our thematic group

Myself and Seb, the spokesperson and face for our group's alternate Communique proposal

Khadija and I - the 2 South Australian Delegates at CYF

Last but not least here’s the video shown as part of the closing Ceremony. You can see other clips from the week at the CYF2011 YouTube Channel

This is Our Commonwealth, Our Future.

Consensus – The struggle to find a voice – Day 3 CYF 2011

Am now back on home soil writing this in retrospect which means I’ve lost some of the intensity and perspective my earlier blogs had, but all the same I’ll do my best to capture the final days of the 2011 Commonwealth Youth Forum starting with Day 3.

Day 3 started with a keynote from Sami and Canadian Senator Segal from the Eminent Person’s Group touching on the work of the EPG and skating over some of the recommendations they’d made.

The Eminent Person’s Group was put together from a number of high flying individuals (ex-presidents/ministers/high ranking officials and a youth Rep – Sami) who were brought together to look at the Commonwealth and make recommendations to CHOGM on their findings. Unfortunately the EPG report was prevented from being released publicly prior to CHOGM. However both Hon. Michael Kirby and Senator Segal touched on the issues it dealt with and shed some light for us.

After the morning session we broke into our groups again to look at our recommendations. As this point our thematic group had separated into 3 smaller groups to deal with our specific recommendations. The group I worked in was looking at Financial Access (see Day 2’s blog which also refers to this) as a key to enabling young people to be partners in improving the livelihoods of all people’s across the Commonwealth. Our group, like most others, had some very heated and intelligent debate (although from the outside it was clear everyone was already on the same page but were just expressing different angles of the issues!). Building on earlier conversations within Thematic Group 5 and the words of all our guest Speakers (with particular references to the EPG) our group felt very strongly that rather than another communiqué of 15 or so recommendations we needed to do something different. Something bold, attention grabbing and out of the box. This idea developed into a strong proposal to have one recommendation regarding financial access which would have benefit to a wide range of stakeholders and have the capacity to implement many of the other recommendations at a grass roots level with young people at the helm.

The gist of our proposal was for the Commonwealth Heads of Government to support/establish an independent youth led governing body to oversee the administration of a youth development fund.

Our thinking behind this wasn’t to magically solve every other problem addressed by every other recommendation but rather to be more strategic and powerful in our communiqué by A) positioning Young People as partners willing and ready to act and take responsibility for implementing solutions B) aligning to the ideas behind the EPG report as shared with us by our guest speakers (and to think outside the box!) and C)to position the Communiqué in such as way that is demanded an answer – having only one recommendation essentially would mean that any answer from CHOGM would directly relate to our recommendation rather than a a vague wash over 15 recommendations.

All of this then led to the question – how do we get the other delegates on board who have all been working very hard on their recommendations and might struggle to let go of what they’d expected (15 recommendations across the 5 thematic groups)….We didn’t have the opportunity to find the answer to this question as like every other day at CYF we were over scheduled and ran out of time and being ushered into the next session.

The next session of the day was a ‘Learning Journey’ which was essentially an opportunity to step away from pressures of the commonwealth and engage with an activity from Fremantle and surrounds. Delegates had a choice of 3 Learning Journeys when they registered prior to the forum so our activities were already planned and programmed. My choice was a trip to Penguin Island which included a talk from the staff on the Island, some photos with 10 penguins who’ve been rescued and were unable to be re-released (they were too scared of live fish to get in their pond!), followed by a cruise around the aquatic park (including a close up encounter with dolphins!), a guided walk around penguin island, where we were lucky enough to spot a humpback whale, all of which was followed by an ‘Aussie BBQ’, complete with Kangaroo skewers! I thoroughly enjoyed the afternoon, particularly our encounter with dolphins who I’d never seen in the wild before.

One of the rescued Penguins of Penguin Island

A group shot from our Learning Journey on Penguin Island

On returning to the Esplanade (again running late) we went straight back into our thematic groups. Our thematic group had been one of the largest with 20+ people so it was quite surprising to start this session with only 4 people! The group were a little concerned but after waiting over half an hour and having only 2 more people arrive we decided to get into it as this final session was about confirming our recommendations before heading into the initial consensus process slotted to start at 7pm.

Unbeknown to us there was a number of separate meetings happening between delegates, planning team and others in response to some concerns/grievances raised by a number of delegates earlier in the day. Our group was quickly brought up to speed as members of our thematic groups who’d been in these meetings arrived to apprise us of the situation close to planned starting time for Consensus. There were 2 issues being raised, one in relation to the rude handling of a presenter who had to be cut off due to scheduling issues (this presenter was a last minute one during a lunch break) and the other in relation to how representatives had been chosen for the CHOGM Youth Dialogue planned for Sunday 30th October.

Without getting into too much detail, just to give you some context – these issues had resulted in some very angry and upset delegates who wanted the issues dealt with promptly and consequently representatives took to the stage at the beginning of consensus to air grievances and request a response from the Planning Team.

As I’d mentioned previously our thematic group had been discussing proposing the complete change of the default draft and replacement with just one recommendation and it was important to have this conversation BEFORE beginning consensus, however we were now broaching that idea in a room of people with mixed emotions (many confused as they’d been unaware of the issues and didn’t really understand why they were being raised publicly, many upset and disillusioned as a result of the issues being raised and many just frustrated and wanting to get started on consensus). So, slightly scary for me as I was the one chosen to ask the person chairing consensus to let us broach our idea!

I am not brave. I am not confident. I am not good with words. I am not good with conflict resolution. I was terrified.

The chair was less than pleased to be asked to postpone beginning consensus AGAIN to allow us to speak. I must have said something right however as he did give us permission to allow our spokesperson to speak.

Following our proposal the Chair asked our group to go and prepare draft text to consider but in the meantime the rest of the delegation would continue with Consensus as planned.

I’m going to talk more about this process from here on in another blog regarding evaluation but suffice to say it was a very long, exhausting night.

NOTE: Post CYF & CHOGM the Eminent Person’s Report has now been released you can read it here and you can read CHOGM’s response to the EPG report here.