Young Leaders

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Meet Jess Bartick, Irene Lemon, Ellen Nyberg, Skye Playfair Redman, Emily Thomas-Moore and Nicole Fogarty – six dynamic local young women with a passion for sustainability, a load of talent and the drive to do something about it.

What brought you together?

We met through our work on the 2010 YOUth LEADing Australia Congress – New England, held here over three days this last November. Armidale was one of twelve locations across Australia, and six internationally, participating in what is now becoming a global network of youth aged 10 to 30 learning about climate change and sustainability.

And what led to your ongoing connection?

A coffee downtown and suggesting we might identify stuff that’s cool about each of us, and seeing where it went from there. We talked about what we’re passionate about and what we do with that passion. Also, leadership stuff.

Working with youth is just one thing we’re involved with around sustainability. So it was also about following up on the things we feel we have in common – personally and professionally.

What came out of that meeting over coffee?

YLA is just the sort of thing we are very passionate about. Reflecting on that opportunity and other community enterprises we’ve been involved with helped us find the common ground we share, and that has led us to propose forming the YOUNG Network, to continue the work we’ve begun. We also talked about Armidale as a place to realise our dreams and aspirations.

“I chose UNE,” says Nicole, “and Armidale, because I wanted to live in a place where there is a strong sense of community. I confess that my lifestyle is not that sustainable, but acknowledging this is the first step. I suppose I am most passionate about social justice and equality of opportunity, particularly where indigenous people are concerned. YLA has sparked my interest in the environment and a more holistic approach to sustainability.”

How would you sum up who you are and what you want to achieve?

We are women in the sustainability enterprise, concerned with sparking a similar interest in the youth of the New England region in our economic, social and environmental futures …

It’s more than the youth network we are establishing and nurturing – it’s contributing to the wider life of our communities in vibrant, exciting ways …

Nicole sums up her own perspective like this:

“Into my 4th year of Business and Law studies, plus management and have participated in the Lucy Mentoring Program – a university based program encouraging women, giving them opportunity and support to become leaders in community.

“As president and a project leader of SIFE UNE, I’ve been able to work with Minimbah School and attend a global conference and competition in the US, with students representing 40 countries. I am trying to learn more and advocate sustainable practice, with the hope of taking these skills into my future workplace.”

Sustainability is a buzz word we hear a lot. How does it relate to your day-to-day work?

Skye: “All of us can recognise the challenges in what we do – like keeping up the momentum and high levels of energy you need to get things done – sustaining change. Making the term ‘sustainability’ mean something to us, when the term is used so heavily and sometimes viewed suspiciously.

“There is a stereotype associated with those who are dedicated to bringing about change that isn’t focused around the bottom line. You don’t have to be a tie-dye-wearing, dreadlock-growing vegan-activist to be involved, and we want to communicate that you can be pro-economic prosperity and agricultural strength, while caring for the state of our region.

“There are also the other small things we incorporate into our lives in an effort to be more sustainable – buying local, buying vintage (hello Ellen) etc. … while maintaining our lifestyles (going out for coffee, enjoying the pub on Fridays etc.).

“I guess the point I’m trying to reinforce is that you can make a difference, without sacrificing the things you love.”

What decided you to get involved, Irene?

“To be completely honest, I didn’t have a grand strategy to become involved in this way with sustainability; however, working towards making the place I’m living in (and the bigger world around us) sustainable, just seems pragmatic and inevitable – for me anyway!”

Business, Law, Sustainability, Urban Planning, Media, Theatre … where does your tertiary education fit into all this?

“I think it’s so crucial to get more than just generic cut and paste outcomes from your education,” says Skye.

“If you go home and keep thinking about what you learn in class (or in the work place), and analyse, criticise and build on these, you end up with better developed ideas and get so much more out of that concept.

“Which is why I am focusing on how to build sustainable cities for my honours research. If I’m going to spend the year working on it, I might as well get as much out of it as possible and make it valuable to more than just myself.”

Irene reflects on what she’s received from the uni experience:

“The university experience has contributed to my own sense of self and my growing confidence in handling what I’m doing, alongside completing my Theatre Studies degree, raising a daughter and planning to study science next!”

What’s 2011 looking like?

Ellen: “I would like to say how exciting it is that Armidale is a place where great potential exists to grow a sustainable community – socially, economically, politically, artistically, professionally and so on. My goal is that these things are just part of everyday life here, and that Armidale and New England are recognised for this. I want to link in with existing groups who support youth (and the rest of the community) in many different capacities, giving them as many opportunities as possible: music, multimedia, creative arts, drama, fitness, social, fun, science …

“Along with our work, family, and university commitments, we are hoping to see an increase in youth involvement across New England, with a growing network through which young people can hear the latest news on sustainability and voice their opinions and concerns.

“And we encourage businesses, enterprises, groups and the Armidale public to keep their eyes peeled for what comes next with the YOUNG Network in 2011!”

Thank you girls.

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