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First Nations Future Leaders Series: Part 3

In the final edition of this blog, we have the pleasure of speaking with Amirah Haque and Destiny Peris about their experience at the First Nations Future Leaders Series.

Amirah Haque

While studying a Bachelor of Laws (Honours) and Global Studies Degree, Amirah Haque has immersed herself in diverse academic, community, and leadership opportunities. Having received the prestigious New Colombo Plan Scholarship awarded by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, she is now studying and interning in Malaysia to further engage in International Affairs. Additionally, her passion to make a positive impact has led her to advocate for human rights and legislative change in over 20 organisations. Some of her roles included working alongside Yolŋu and Koori First Nations Leaders and publishing policy submissions with the Islamic Council of Victoria.

Why did you want to participate in the series?

My aspiration to participate in the 2023 Future Leaders series went beyond a mere fascination with First Nations foreign policy; it extends to connecting with First Nations foreign policy experts and actively working together towards positive outcomes. I believe the attainment of Indigenous self-determination and integration of Indigenous knowledge into policy is paramount for better environmental, health and social inclusion outcomes for all people, both indigenous and non-indigenous.

Over the years, my love for learning and engaging with First Nations communities inspired me to immerse myself in diverse academic, community, and leadership opportunities. Among the most memorable experiences include living among Yolŋu Elders in North-East Arnhem Land; cultivating spaces for primary and secondary students to learn from Wurundjeri Elder, Uncle Ian Hunter; collaborating with Uncle Pat at Bunjilwarra, a Koori Youth Drug and Alcohol Healing service; and attending the First Nations Thought Leaders Panel at the 2022 International Childhood Trauma Conference.

During my New Colombo Plan Scholarship in Malaysia, I've expanded my understanding of First Nations' ways of being in the Indo-Pacific. My drive to make change led me to volunteer for First Nations advocacy with the Islamic Council of Victoria and write two policy recommendations to promote meaningful Indigenous engagement in University Education Systems and Social Enterprises.

Destiny Peris

Destiny is 21 years old and proud to be a Bunitj (West Arnhem Land), Yawuru and Gidja (Kimberley) woman. Larrakia Country (Darwin) is her home, however she is currently studying the Bachelor of Nursing at the University of Notre Dame Australia on Gadigal Country (Sydney) and is resident of St Andrew’s College (within the University of Sydney). After completing her degree, Destiny wants to work on Country. In this series, Destiny was keen to learn about the government policies that affect the health of First Nations Australians. She is aware of legislations that make it extremely difficult for Aboriginal women to give birth on Country. Destiny wants to change this and facilitate birthing on Country as a nurse and Close the [Health] Gap at the forefront.

What did your participation in the series mean for you?

This semester, I took a class in 'Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples' Health'. In this class we were informed of some government policies that affect and impede on the health of First Nations Australians. For example, there is legislation in place that makes it extremely difficult for Aboriginal women to give birth on Country. I want to be able to help Aboriginal mothers birth on Country as a nurse and help bridge the Health Gap at the forefront. This series was valuable for me as a nursing student and a future nurse, as I can apply what I learnt in my nursing practice. I believe that my life experience and knowledge as a young Aboriginal woman from the Top End, who has networked in the Aboriginal Advocacy space, deserves room at the table.

What were your experiences on the final day of the Future23 National Conference?

The final day of the Future23 National Conference was incredible. It began with an insightful Panel Discussion: Diplomacy Activated. With a wealth of experience in diplomacy, Ambassador Pernille Kardel (Denmark), Bina D’Costa (Professor and ARC Future Fellow, ANU Coral Bell) and Emma Roberts (Indonesian Political Section DFAT) shared the practical elements to create successful outcomes in diplomacy. Strategic diplomacy occurs before, during and after engagement. As highlighted by the speakers, it is imperative to first research. Understanding your agenda, coupled with the needs and fears of those you are engaging with, enables you to better navigate the nuances of the situation at hand. Moreover, active listening, cross-cultural communication and being attuned to sensitivity are key to making any change in diplomacy.

Participants then had the opportunity to attend two Regional Breakout sessions hosted by representatives from Embassies and High Commissions. Among those to choose from included Singapore, Argentina, the United Kingdom, Sri Lanka, Thailand and the United States. This interactive session enabled participants to further understand the bilateral relationship between Australia and their country of choice. Key themes that arose during discussions included understanding the historical and current relationships as well as challenges and opportunities in the region.

The program closed with a powerful panel by Young People in the World. Led by young shakers and changers, Zhanae Dodd (CEO of Groove Co and First Nations FLS Participant), Asha Clementi (Girls Run the World) and Jack Hayes (Research Assistant, Global Institute of Women’s Leadership) shared their advocacy experiences. Insights into ways to have your voice heard, building self-confidence and supporting other young people were key highlights of the panel. Indeed, it was a great inspiration for how young people can bring their perspectives on emerging challenges facing the region to be the future generation of leaders in foreign policy.

We ended the evening with a festive Black and White-themed Gala Dinner. It was a night of celebration, networking and acknowledgement of every person and organisation that supported the YAIA Future23 National Conference and Future Leaders Series. It was heartwarming to be surrounded by those who share a passion for greater youth engagement in international affairs. We give a special thank you to Renee Cremer (YAIA CEO) and the YAIA team for not only elevating the voices of young people, but also for paving the way for a better future. We cannot wait to see what opportunities are up next for YAIA and beyond.


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