The 2010 United Nations Youth Association (UNYA) National Youth Conference

21 October 2010

Model United Nations General Assembly in session

The United Nations Youth Association (UNYA) has a proud tradition in running the National Youth Conference every year for the past 49 years. This year, the conference was held at St Catherine's College at the University of Western Australia bringing together over 120 students from across Australia and New Zealand.

As facilitators to the conference, we were enabling 10 bright young individuals selected from the UNYA NSW State Conference held earlier this year, to experience this conference. Our delegation was made up of students from years 10 to 12, and each of them embraced the opportunity with great amounts of enthusiasm. This year, the theme of the conference was Advocating for Change, and allowed the delegates to focus on the empowerment of a range of disadvantaged social groups. Ultimately, the aim of the conference was to build the confidence of young people to face discrimination and injustice in their own communities, as they become advocates for change. The Conference allowed delegates and facilitators alike to broaden their horizons and gain a greater understanding of issues of international consequence that may not be thoroughly dealt with in the current education curriculum.

Our experience at the Conference was particularly rewarding as we had all previously attended as delegates, and we therefore found great satisfaction in giving something back to the organisation that had provided us with a wonderful experience. Facilitating the workshops, Model UN sessions, guest speaker forums and interactive problem solving activities reminded us of the realisations we had come to as delegates in the years previous- that age is not a limit to effecting positive change, and that young people are the leaders of today, not tomorrow.

Some of the highlights for the delegates included a flash mob dance in the Perth Mall, where all 120 students performed a choreographed dance and invited the public to share what they would like to change in the world by writing on giant blackboards. Community excursions were also well received with delegates engaged in activities such as wheelchair basketball, African dancing and Middle Eastern migrant cooking classes, allowing them to gain a better understanding of minorities in Australia.

The NSW Delegation

The delegates to the conference also produced a 'Youth Declaration' document, which detailed their beliefs and policy proposals on a number of important issues ranging from the rights of refugees, to structures for Australian regional engagement, and the rights of young people in Australia. We really enjoyed facilitating such important empowerment of these young people to express their own opinions and views, in an opportunity rarely afforded to them.

As Tim and Eliza were both selected as Most Outstanding Delegate at their respective National Conferences, they took great pleasure in passing on the award to one of our own delegates from NSW. Eliza had a particularly difficult role at the conference, as she had the daunting task of selecting 17 delegates to attend The Hague International Model United Nations in January 2011. Eliza will be travelling with the delegates to Europe next year.

Overall, the conference was a wonderful experience, and we are very grateful for the generous support of the Sydney Law School enabling us to attend.