IMPACT Gold Coast Youth Summit

30 Mar | '2023

I believe in the youth of our nation. They represent the future and they deserve our attention, our guidance and our support. As the shadow minister for youth, I want to deliver real and meaningful choice and opportunities for younger Australians. As a young person, I had an opportunity that transformed my life through Rotary International. The year abroad was truly inspirational and transformational for me as a young person from a disadvantaged background.

So many young people today feel they don’t have a choice or an opportunity to make something for themselves and for their future. Many feel they have no way to advance themselves, and many simply don’t know how. So, as shadow minister for youth, I am doing something for my youth community, to pay forward the opportunities that I experienced as a teenager who wanted to make something of herself.

I’ve been working with outstanding Gold Coaster Karen Phillips and our supporters and partners to deliver impactful opportunities for young Gold Coasters. On 17 and 18 March, as patron of the 2023 Gold Coast IMPACT Youth Summit, I was thrilled to host 189 young people from 23 schools and over 20 community groups, universities and businesses to deliver new opportunities for Gold Coast youth. For young people, magic happened at this inaugural event, the first of its kind on the Gold Coast, designed for youth, about youth. It was meaningful and life-changing for many who attended and participated in a range of activities that broadened their horizons, where they heard from inspirational speakers who recounted their experiences and their challenges.

I can’t mention all of them today, as it was a packed agenda, but some highlights were Shamus Evans, who was the MC and provided a great role model for those living with non-swearing Tourette syndrome. He has turned his adversity into a superpower. We heard from Tim Laser Beakman, a young man with a disability who defied doctors to even speak and has risen as a celebrated artist now throughout the world; Briony Benjamin, with her inspirational story of surviving and flourishing after non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma; Dinesh Palipana OAM; Chang Po Ching; Marco Renai, with his ‘Men of Business’ MOB Academy’s flexible independent school that ‘builds better men’; and more.

In some sessions, discussions were about the power of education, finding your why and then your how, how to support someone experiencing mental health challenges, and there was also a break-out for secondary teachers who attended. On the second day, the participants undertook activities including team building, which involved building a bike to give to the community. There was a Sea World environmental experience, with rescued marine animals and a creativity workshop. Young people known as Gen 1 IMPACTERS then left the two-day summit beaming with new-found inspiration and enthusiasm, filled with hope and opportunity.

The IMPACT summit was funded completely by community philanthropy and the major partner, Sea World Foundation, and was delivered by well-known and outstanding Gold Coaster Karen Phillips. I’d like to take the opportunity to thank her for her dedication and to thank our many partners for the event. I thank the principal partner, the Sea World Foundation, for their generous support for Gold Coast youth, for the tremendous work they do for marine rescue, research and conversation and for being the good corporate citizen they are for the Gold Coast. I thank Mario Evangelo, his wife, Janelle, and daughters, Lauren and Georgia, for your philanthropic support through inspiring greatness, and Azra Kujovic, for assisting in that endeavour. I thank our Gold Coast partners, Village Roadshow Theme Parks, Griffith University, COVAX Australia and the Peerless Law Firm, and our program partners, Southern Cross University, Study Gold Coast, TAFE Queensland, Walsh Accounting, Cronin Miller Litigation and Ten Four media. I also thank our media partners, the Gold Coast Bulletin and the LiSTNR app; our community partners, Volunteering Gold Coast, Serving Our People, Gold Coast Corporate Rotary Club, Empowered Living Choices and St Vincent de Paul; and the Moncrieff youth cabinet members who worked with us to design many elements of the event, including the name. I look forward to our next meeting in a couple of weeks. To the 189 first-generation IMPACTERs: I’m so very proud of you all for attending and getting the most out of the summit. I’m proud of your achievements and the changes you’re making for yourselves and in our community.

State and federal governments need to better support our youth to learn how to be the best they can be, through offering more platforms for them to connect with their interests, abilities and passions in a way that is relevant and dynamic in today’s world. There is a need for more of the flexible models that accommodate individuals from all cultures, all identities and all abilities and teach them how to work hard, to build a future and to make good choices for their lives that ultimately positively impact their families and their communities.

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