New Scholarship to Help Young People Change Australia

Posted 21 Jul 2014, by

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The Expert Editor has launched a scholarship program for Australian students’ intent on changing the country. In this blog we explain in greater detail the reason for the scholarship and why we think young people today have great potential to be change-makers.

Australia is a rich nation whose economy or social safety net, depending on who you speak to, will unravel before Jack Bauer next thwarts a bad guy (Monday 8.30pm, according to my TV guide). We have little faith in our politicians and political system, and even less in a trade unionist with a credit card. While Tim Cahill’s right foot won’t save us, the student generation might.

Tomorrow’s transformative figures are likely to be young, educated and dissatisfied with the status quo. Although students from every generation have possessed the right qualities to be change-makers, the current student generation has a greater capacity to improve Australia than any previous one.

The ubiquity of the Internet and mobile connectivity means that young people enjoy unparalleled access to information and can connect with like-minded people from around the globe. Many previous barriers to creating change have broken down and young people are becoming genuinely influential in all walks of life.

Cynics who doubt the ability of a young person to be transformative ignore recent history. Ten years ago Mark Zuckerberg built a platform that would connect billions of people, initially with the less than lofty aim of identifying girls on campus. Imagine what a university student can accomplish this decade, given that Tinder has liberated the search for romance.

We can look closer to home to find examples of influential young people. Ruslan Kogan migrated to Australia as a 10 year old with his sister and parents, a total of $8 in their collective pockets, and spent his early years living in a public housing estate. By his mid-20’s, the company he founded was Australia’s largest online retail retailer, employed hundreds of people and gave Australian consumers greater bang for their buck. Now 30, he’s on the BRW Rich List and is the quintessential self-made millionaire.

However, you don’t have to be an entrepreneur to change a country. 2014 National Youth Award winner Evelyna Dhamarrandji established a program to engage Indigenous women aged 17-30 years in fitness, healthy eating and good mental health. Conrad Liveris founded the not-for-profit organisation ‘Street Smugglers’ which aims to raise awareness about homelessness.

Stella Young is a particularly good example of someone young and influential. A successful comedian and activist, her humour and honesty helps Australians appreciate what life is like for people with a disability. She has worked tirelessly to put the National Disability Insurance Scheme back on the political agenda.

All these young Australians have changed the country for the better. Who will be next? It’s a good bet they will have ambition; an unwillingness to accept the status quo; a healthy disregarded for convention and authority; and they will use technology, and the world’s digital connectedness, to be agents of change. As for how they will change Australia, let’s hope it’s in the most unexpected way.

‘A Better Australia Scholarship Program’ will reward a student in Australia each year who has a big agenda. Although this initiative is a modest one in helping the winner become a change-maker, we think that recognising and rewarding young people with great potential is important.

We’re unconcerned about how the scholarship money is spent—whether on educational expenses or something else altogether—as long as it helps the winner achieve change. It’s worth noting that if Steve Jobs was awarded such a scholarship in his youth, he probably would have spent the money to attend a Buddhist retreat and on LSD, and he made a pretty fantastic contribution to the world.

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