4 things you can do to make a difference
For many of us, 2020 was a year of feeling helpless in the face of the global pandemic, systemic racism, climate change, and the turbulent US election. For people who aren’t old enough to vote it can feel even harder to make a difference.
Katrina Scaramella, a mentor of the Youth Leadership Group run by The Australian Multicultural Foundation and the Museum of Australian Democracy (MoAD), offers her advice on how to get involved in causes that matter to you, have your voice heard, and make a difference.
What do you care about?
My journey from a young person who didn’t think anyone would take her seriously to someone who could guide others to create positive change took a lot of motivation, searching and courage.
Start by thinking about what problems bother you, what challenges you wish you could solve and how you want to help others.
For me, it was inspiring young people to think critically about the information they consume and challenging misinformation and violent extremist ideas. I knew that the way to do this was through a unified, cohesive and respectful society.
I wanted to surround myself with people who put these ideas into action and led by example. This brought me to the Australian Multicultural Foundation.
Connect with causes you care about by:
- listening to the different thoughts, ideas and perspectives around you
- following expert mentors, networks and organisations in areas you’re passionate about
- educating yourself with credible resources
- participating in programs, internships and opportunities to expand your knowledge
- volunteering for local initiatives and community activities
I connected with my mentor through the MoAD Future Leaders Mentoring Program. This program taught me the power of seeking support. My mentor has had a massive impact on my life. She walked me through some of my hardest choices as a young adult and is still a close mentor two years on.
A mentor can give you advice, help you set goals, discover opportunities and make connections. These conversations can give you a starting point to engage in the cause you care about and insight about what to look out for along your journey.
To find a supportive mentor, you’ll need to seek them out. Identify a person that is an expert, leader or change maker in the area you’re passionate about and reach out to them. Introduce yourself, share your common connection and interests and request a coffee or Zoom chat.
Networks are also a powerful tool for meeting people, learning from others and creating meaningful connections.
It’s more likely than not that the people you look up to are willing to give you their time - all you need to do is ask.
As a member of the Australian Youth Leadership Forum: Champions of Change I was invited to present to Federal Ministers at Parliament House.
I sat at a table with former serving politicians, academics, journalists, and even a nuclear scientist. My friend was able to share his views directly with former Prime Minister John Howard.
Moments like this inspire me to keep engaged and active and show me the power young people have. However, you don’t need to sit at this sort of table to make change.
Engage with likeminded people and organisations that champion the cause you are passionate about at a local level. Share the work of activists and organisers you admire on social media, write to your local Member of Parliament, sign petitions and have conversations with people around you.
Get inspired to make change by observing real solutions to real issues in the world around you.
Be true to yourself
As a mentor in the Youth Leadership Program, I was nervous to transition from a participant to a leader so I did the only thing I could – I was true to myself.
A leader isn’t always the loudest person in the room, nor are they the most confident. A leader is born from being courageous in the face of possible failure and fighting for something you believe in against all odds.
A leader finds ways to continually improve and shares their experiences to motivate others. I was honest and respectful towards those I mentored. I had conviction in my beliefs but recognised that other people have different views. A leader will respect the experiences that bring people to their own perspectives and opinions.
Through this process, I proved to myself that I have the resolve and the tools to inspire the change I have set out to achieve. Young people are powerful because we learn and listen, our perspectives are fresh and we are exposed to more ideas than ever before.