The Youth Forum, “Light the Fire” was held recently in the Northern Tablelands of NSW.
The theme was “Youth Leadership”, with the keynote address delivered by New South Wales Aboriginal Land Council (NSWALC) Chairman Craig Cromelin, who spoke about what it takes to be a leader.
Organised by the University of New England, “Light the Fire” was originally set up to engage youth in the New South Wales Aboriginal Land Rights system, but over time it has evolved.
Project Coordinator Shannon Green, a 26 year-old woman from Walcha in NSW and member of Amaroo Local Aboriginal Land Council, says the event now incorporates a variety of activities and workshops.
“It’s about the learning cycle of Aboriginal culture, skills of leadership and art to name a few,” she said.
The three-day event also heard from many inspirational role models including Sydney-based Natasha Lawrence, an emerging film maker from Casino on the Far North Coast of NSW.
“I came from nothing to something – pretty much a single mum on her own who moved to Sydney to make a living, to make a better life and follow a dream,” she said.
Ms Lawrence, who is currently working on a documentary about body-building called “Destination Arnold” hopes her story, and that of other speakers, will be planted in the hearts and minds of young people.
“Feel inspired to do something different for yourself, just that one thing, that’s all you’ve got to do, something different,” Ms Lawrence said.
Bundjalung woman Bronwyn Bancroft, an accomplished artist, says education is the key to get ahead in life.
“It was absolutely imperative for me today to get my message across that whatever you do, don’t get distracted, stay at school, your options for leaving school are limited and it will limit you as a person.” Ms Bancroft said.
Light the fire Project Coordinator Shannon Green agrees.
“My personal hope is that each participant in ‘Light the Fire’ leaves here and believes that they can achieve anything. Anything’s possible, work hard and hopefully stay in school,” she said.
Ms Green hopes the event can be replicated in other NSWALC regions.
“I think it’s important that the youth know that older people are interested in them and I think it’s also important for the youth to know that the Elders are here to inform us and there shouldn’t be any disrespect there,” she said.