This year, from 29 September to 4 October, the National Indigenous Youth Leadership Academy held its first national conference. Throughout the week 40 young people aged 15-18 learnt about how to create lasting change in their communities; from identifying an issue, developing a vision for change and then coming up with the solution.
On the final day they got to pitch their ideas for change to a ‘Dragon’s Den’.
For those who have not seen the show, the dragon’s den is where entrepreneurs pitch their business ideas to a hostile panel of potential investors. For this Dragon’s Den, the panel was made up of people from a number of community and youth organisations. I was lucky to be among them.
As I was watching their presentations I was struck by the fact that all of these young people were talking about changes, not just for them or for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, but for Australia. From reducing cyber bullying, to addressing malnutrition among school students, to providing safe and fun things for young people to do at night as alternatives to drinking and taking drugs.
It was also amazing to hear how young people are grappling with what it means to be Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander and how to keep their culture strong. One presenter recalled advice given to him by an elder; “If you want to keep culture, you have to give it away”.
He wants to share and celebrate the traditional and evolving parts of his culture with all Australians in order to keep it strong.