What would Australia look like if young people were given a greater say?

Amos Washington is the 2018 Australian Youth Representative to the United Nations. This year, he’s conducting a far-reaching Listening Tour of young people and relevant decision-makers across the country, collecting data during the consultations and delivering a report to the government on his findings.

He will also travel to the United Nations in New York City, delivering an address to the General Assembly on behalf of young Australians.

In 2018, he asks the question ‘What would Australia look like if young people were given a greater say?’

Amos, congratulations on your new role as Youth representative to the United Nations! Tell us about yourself. Where did you grow up? What do you study?

A: I grew up in Mount Barker, and went to Cornerstone College. I currently study a Bachelor of Arts, Bachelor of Laws, and I’ve completed a Diploma of Languages at Adelaide University.

Did you always want to work in politics and international relations?”

A: In high school, I wanted to be an actor because I loved the arts and I think it’s really important that we nurture the creativity of young people. But then I realized that I had another passion – international issues, politics and campaigning and I got involved with UN Youth (United Nations Youth) when I was in year 11. It changed my perspective on things, and it made me realize how important it is to feel internationally connected. I want all other young people to feel as though they have an important role to play, and they can understand their place in the world.

How did you become the Australian Youth Representative to the United Nations?

A: I’ve been involved with UN Youth since I was in High School – I helped coordinate the program in South Australia from 2014 to 2016. I’ve known about the program and the impact it has on people for a while, so I decided to throw my hat into the ring last year. In August of last year, I submitted an application, and then I had a skype interview in September and had to travel to Sydney in October for a three-part selection panel interview. It was daunting, but I enjoyed it and I’m really glad for this opportunity.

What motivated you to apply for this position?

A: I’ve been considering this for quite a while: because I’ve been so close to the Youth Rep program and have seen its impacts –  I knew the intricacies of the role relatively well before I applied. It took a lot of consideration, and it’s a big decision to make because it’s an unpaid voluntary full-time role. I’m working 9-5 five days a week to try and get this program and it’s feet and had to defer a semester of study because there’s physically not enough time in a week. In addition, as part of the Listening Tour, I’m spending a lot of evening and weekends listening to young people.

It’s not really about ME in this role, it’s about the program itself and the impact it makes on young people. I want to emphasise that because I consider myself to be shepherding this program through 2018.

What aspect of your role, and the activities you’re undertaking, are you most excited about this year?

A: This year will involve 3 components: The first is the Listening Tour, which goes from March to August when I’ll be travelling around the country listening to young people about the views and issues that matter to them. I’ll be going to as many places as I can – I want to engage with the most diverse range of young people as possible. I think it’s important that young people are connected to decision-makers and their opinions are heard in policymaking.

The second component is going to New York city in September-October to work with the Australian mission to the UN on behalf of young people. The third component is delivering a final report to the government at the end of the year – and I’m also excited about that because I can synthesize my findings to key decision makers.

The most exciting thing is working with young people, in whatever form that takes.

What kind of challenges are you facing in this role, through each component of this program?

A: The biggest challenging is making this role financially viable. It is an unpaid position, and while I’m incredibly lucky to have the support of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade through my time in New York. I personally need to cover all my living, travel and accommodation expenses this year, and any other incidental costs that may occur. Funding is a big pedal for me, and I’m currently seeking partnerships with businesses and organisations to make my plans possible.

Where do you see yourself in ten years?

A: I hope to be doing something that I love, and I don’t necessarily see that as a public figure or role like Youth Representative. I hope to be working in a role where I can shape policy and make a contribution to international affairs and domestic policymaking.

 

For news and updates: fb.com/unyouthrep

To make a personal contribution: gofundme.com/youthrep2018

For partnering with the program: youthrep@unyouth.org.au

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