Who will speak?
A baby girl born today in my community will live to be 82. She will go to school and university. A girl born today in an indigenous community will live to 72 and has only a 47% chance of completing high school. It seems incomprehensible that such disparity can exist in “the lucky country”. In 2011-12 Australia will spend $4.8 billion on overseas aid; but often we overlook the people whose voices go unheard in our own backyard. Most change makers in Australia are like me. Well educated, with tertiary qualifications and networks that will listen when they speak. But theirs are not the communities that need the most help.
I see that there are communities that need change more than my own. But I cannot and will not speak for them. I am not the best person to identify their needs. Change must come from within. But there are significant barriers to people from these communities becoming change makers.
There needs to be more focus on empowering young people and providing them with the skills to focus their ideas. The potential for successful change is greatly improved when the key change makers understand basic project management, advocacy and needs identification. By informing their voices we will harness their vision.
I overcome this barrier to constructive change by training young women. In a recent project, Girl Guides Australia used donated video conferencing technology to connect 75 young women from across the country. Through face-to-face interaction, the women were trained and then given the opportunity to ask questions directly to members of parliament. However, coming away from the forum, most did not receive enough support to follow through with their personal change projects. This is where networks like World Pulse could help. The Action Alerts and Resource Exchange allows for both physical and mentoring support beyond the abilities of small organisations. For example, a girl struggling to raise support for a recycling program could turn to Resource Exchange with a ‘need’ for advice. She could then share her experience and newfound skills to inspire others like her through PulseWire ‘Voices Rising’.
One of the major challenges for change makers in Australia is finding a platform to raise awareness for their cause. Our market of non-government organisations is saturated. We have a rainbow of awareness ribbons and in the last two weeks we have had four national awareness days run by major charities. This is creating unhealthy competition as causes jostle for space and support in a growing sector. Quite simply, we need much better collaboration between organisations when undertaking major projects. Online communities will facilitate this collaboration on a larger scale than ever before. Hopefully we can use them to share our skills and change the face of the Australian change maker.