Ciara Morris, a Year 10 student at St Scholastica’s College, Glebe in Sydney, is one of 17 secondary students who will represent Australia at a United Nations’ youth conference in Geneva and The Hague early next year.
The 15-year old was selected after participating in the national conference of UN Youth Australia (UNYA) held recently in Melbourne, which included more than 100 Year 9 to 12 students from every Australian state and territory, as well as delegates from New Zealand and Japan.
For Ciara, being chosen to represent her country is a great privilege and an opportunity to pursue her passion for global issues, social justice, public speaking and debating.
“I felt very humbled and proud to represent NSW at a national level and am further honoured to represent Australia’s youth on the world stage,” she said.
While much of the detail of the international conference in January and February 2013 is yet to be confirmed, Ciara does know that delegates will participate in a mock UN General Assembly, much like her experiences at UNYA state and national conferences.
“The 17 of us representing Australia will get a nation to represent in a mock UN General Assembly. We haven’t been allocated countries yet but I’m sure when that comes we’ll do our extensive research on the country on foreign policy and then engage in a number of debates,” she explained.
Ciara is “very excited” about the whole experience, but admits to feeling “very nervous”.
“I’m very nervous because this will be the highest level of this sort of engagement debate I will ever have experienced. I can’t wait because I think it’s going to be fantastic. I can’t wait to experience the different cultures, the different people that I’m going to meet.”
Considering Ciara only discovered UNYA last year when her English teacher encouraged her to attend the NSW conference, Ciara’s rapid progression to national and now international representation indicates her talent, commitment and maturity.
“We are proud of Ciara and her well thought out arguments and public speaking skills,” said Loretto Richardson, Principal of St Scholastica’s College.
“She is a young woman who will be a fine and worthy representative of Australia.”
Ciara said her interest in global issues and passion for social justice “comes from a lot of places” but her parents have been a big influence.
“I can’t really remember a time when I wasn’t passionate about these issues,” she said.
“I think both my parents have influenced me a lot… They’ve always made the home a place where we can talk about these issues, where education is very much valued.”
She also believes her experience travelling with her family to China a few years ago made a strong impact.
“I’ve been very privileged to have spent some time overseas. I’d definitely encourage anyone who has the ability to travel to do so, and I think being able to witness differences, especially socio-economic differences in the world, and the inequalities that you face every day, it’s just made me really quite passionate for social justice and to make sure that every person has the same equal opportunities for life.”
Perhaps not surprisingly, when Ciara finishes school she hopes to study law and international studies at university. “After that, no matter what I do, I would love to go into the UN,” she said.
“I would like to make a difference to people’s lives for the positive. And I can see through my experiences with UN Youth how the UN can help make that change. And if that’s the path that my life takes me, then I think that’ll be a fantastic privilege.”
UNYA aims to foster a greater understanding of global issues and the role of the United Nations among young people under 25. It also aims to develop students’ skills in vital areas such as debating, negotiation, leadership, problem solving and understanding of international affairs in an accessible and supportive environment.