Youth Representative to the United Nations

About this Item
SpeakersWestwood The Hon Helen
BusinessAdjournment, ADJ

Page: 25425

The Hon. HELEN WESTWOOD [11.07 p.m.]: Recently I had the pleasure of attending an event organised by the Muslim Women's Association to support a remarkable young woman, Samah Hadid. I first met Samah during my years as Mayor of the City of Bankstown. She impressed me then as someone who would make a real difference as an advocate for young people and a future leader. Since the age of 15 Samah has been passionate about championing the issues and concerns of young people. Samah is particularly interested in representing and airing the concerns of youth from a culturally and religiously diverse and indigenous background. She was selected to attend the Prime Minister's 2020 Summit and was also a member of the youth 2020 summit where she represented young people from Bankstown and raised the issue of improving migrant and refugee resettlement.

Her community work started in 2003 as co-editor for the magazine Reflections, a youth magazine providing young Muslim women with a platform for social commentary and voice for their views on issues of social justice, allowing them to contribute to wider community debate. Samah also participated in Oxfam International's youth engagement program in 2007. This program aimed at engaging young Australians with global issues of poverty, human rights and climate change. As a result of volunteering with Oxfam, Samah has become an advocate of anti-poverty movements and promotes the need for global citizenship. She began her community work with the Muslim Women's Association where she volunteered as a youth team leader and assistant researcher. Her work with the association included a six-year role as mentor and team leader at youth camps, contributing to the self-development of young women from culturally diverse backgrounds.

Samah has contributed to promote intercommunity, intercultural and interfaith dialogue through her community service work, speaking at churches and schools. She has also written in various publications, such as several books including The Future By Us: Chapter on multiculturalism and New Waves of Feminism. She was an active member of the Bankstown Youth Advisory Committee for more than three years. Through this role she co-chaired and organised the Youth of Western Sydney conference in 2007. This was the inaugural gathering and network of youth advisory committees in western Sydney. She also served as a member of the cultural identity team on the national youth roundtable where she developed research, exploring youth perspectives on national values and identity. She worked with young people from indigenous, refugee and migrant backgrounds during this process. This role was used to develop youth engagement strategies for culturally diverse and indigenous young people. Samah has also been a finalist for Young Muslim of the Year and the recipient of the Community Relations Commission Young Volunteer of the Year 2008, as well as receiving a Human Rights Commendation Award from the Australian Human Rights Commission.

In 2009 Samah was selected as the first Australian to complete a minority rights fellowship with the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. This program brought together human rights leaders from across the world to represent their communities and work toward greater advocacy for human rights. Currently Samah is the 2010 Australian Youth Representative to the United Nations. This role is allocated by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and the United Nations Association of Australia to one young Australian every year. Samah will be representing the views of young Australians at the United Nations, where she will give an address to the United Nations General Assembly this month.

In order to do this effectively, Samah has embarked on a national listening tour to understand the experiences and concerns of young people across Australia. This self-funded national tour has seen Samah visit every State and Territory in Australia, visiting rural, regional and metropolitan areas, conducting more than 100 consultations and speaking to approximately 10,000 young Australians. Her national listening tour also involved connecting with vulnerable young people from indigenous, refugee and disabilities communities. Through this role Samah has advocated for the rights and needs of young Australians who are at the margins of our society, young people who rarely get a voice in the wider community.

At the United Nations General Assembly Samah will highlight the plight of indigenous young people. She intends to bring the diverse voices of indigenous young Australians to the fore of human rights discussions at the United Nations. Of particular urgency for Samah is the over-representation of indigenous youth in the justice system. This is a characteristic of juvenile justice systems across Australia, including New South Wales. She believes it is an area in need of significant reform. Samah also hopes to highlight discrimination faced by other sexual, refugee and religious minorities in the community.

Upon return from the General Assembly, Samah will report back to communities she visited during her national tour on her experiences working at the United Nations General Assembly. Most importantly, Samah has come across positive youth-driven initiatives that are making a real difference for young people and their communities. She is most excited to highlight programs like Headspace, RISE, a coalition of refugee advocacy groups, and AIME indigenous mentoring programs. She hopes that through this role she is able to illuminate the powerful stories of young Australians on the international stage. The Youth Representative position was created in 1999 when the United Nations Youth Association of Australia presented a proposal to the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade outlining the need for a Youth Representative. This proposal was based on numerous resolutions of the General Assembly. As the 2010 Youth Representative, Samah will be the thirteenth Youth Representative who has travelled to New York, and she is the second young person from Bankstown to fulfil this role.

Question—That this House do now adjourn—put and resolved in the affirmative.

Motion agreed to.
The House adjourned at 11.12 p.m. until Thursday 9 September 2010 at 11.00 a.m.