From Saturday the 19th of June to Wednesday the 23rd of June, World Vision’s youth movement Vision Generation (VGEN) embarked on a trip to Canberra with 45 of VGEN’s passionate leaders and volunteers from across Australia. I was lucky enough to be one of them, and thought I’d share some of our experiences to encourage you to take action in your local community as well!
The trip intended to not only keep poverty on the agenda in parliament, yet raise awareness about Millennium Development Goals 4 and 5. Goal 4 is to reduce the under-five mortality rate by two-thirds, and Goal 5 looks at reducing the maternal mortality rate by three quarters. Unfortunately these two goals are amongst others that have received little attention or funding, and as a result are a long way from being achieved by 2015. To raise awareness about these goals we participated in various flash stunts around Canberra city, and also had the opportunity to meet with some politicians too. Our message was so shocking that we even left behind a new Prime Minister in our wake!
Day 1 and 2 were all about training – we learnt campaign tactics, formulas for building successful movements, heard from government workers and an AUSAID representative and also participated in some training with Micah Challenge at their Voices for Justice Conference which was being held in Canberra whilst we were there. Training helps to unify the group as a movement whilst also building our minds with knowledge useful to knock over any politician! I collected many training documents over the weekend too, so shoot me a comment or email if you’d like a look as I’d love to share them with you!
Day 2 also saw our group hosting a 5th Birthday Party in Garema Place with some youth from the Micah Challenge conference. We had balloons, a giant ‘5’ cake, children’s games and face painting too. Our group even got a turn on the merry-go-round next to our party. Whilst this event was lots of fun, at the root of the party was a sad reality that 8.8 million children are dying every year before their fifth birthday. To highlight this, we played Ring-a-Ring-a-Rosie every fifteen minutes and spent a minute on the floor after the line “we all fall down”. Our stunt effectively engaged with the public and got a lot of people thinking about this issue. If you’d like to hold your own 5th Birthday Party in your area, head to Micah Challenge’s ‘Survive Past Five’ page for resources and details to help you start creating change in your community!
Day 3 was an early start as we rose to arrive at Parliament House to be addressed by Kevin Rudd and Tony Abbott and present them with the ‘Micah Call Scroll’ – a scroll with 10,000 signatures of people who have signed the Micah Call (there are 112,000 people who have signed this call to end poverty, yet only 10,000 would fit!) – if you haven’t signed the call already, make sure you do! Kevin Rudd commended us as young leaders seeking global change, and Tony Abbott called us ‘naggers’, which I take us a huge compliment – we’re not giving up anytime soon!
After this momentous event we dispersed into ‘lobby groups’ with some of the Voices for Justice crew and prepared to meet with politicians. I was lucky enough to be in a group with my electorate and we had the opportunity to meet Phillip Ruddock. He remembered me from my last stint in Canberra on the Make Poverty History Road Trip which was fantastic and he gave us almost an hour of his time to talk about poverty, climate change, child and maternal health and the action we hope the government can take. Hopefully he will come to a forum I’ll begin planning in August!
Next stop was a trip highlight – lunch with World Vision’s CEO Tim Costello! It was lovely meeting with Tim, sharing our experiences with him and hearing his wisdom and advice. Though we only had a brief time with him, we managed to get in a great group shot in our state and national VGEN teams. It’s so encouraging that someone like Tim could be so inspired by young people like us – it definitely spurred us on over the next few days!
Arriving back at our accommodation after lunch we spent some time preparing for a new day of flash stunts, advocacy and hopefully lots of media attention!
Day 4 involved another early start to Parliament House – this time dressed in fashionable green tights and hats. We arrived on the lawns of Parliament House to participate in a Robin Hood Tax Stunt. More about the Robin Hood Tax can be found under the ‘Campaigns’ tab above. We enjoyed an hour of frolicking about the laws in our tights, hats and shooting our bows and arrows and also formed an arrow head pointing to Parliament House which the media loved and took many photos of whilst we sang “It’s the Robin, It’s the Robin, It’s the Robin Hood Tax. We’re not robbing anyone, we’re giving poverty the axe.” Make sure you visit the Robin Hood Tax website to sign your name to this movement and also get involved in their next stunt!
After braving the cold as Robin Hood, we embarked to Garema Place again to hold a ‘Dirty Water Sale and Flash Squat’ stunt. This act intended to raise awareness about the lack of clean water in the developing world which leads to illnesses such as diarrhoea which are then killing children under 5. This was a very effective and eye-catching stunt – some amazing VGenners even managed to SELL dirty water (?!?!) with all donations going to World Vision. We collected petitions and then paused for 5 minutes to wrap ourselves in toilet paper and squat, gaining lots of attention from passersby and again, a great photo opportunity.
In the afternoon I also had another opportunity back at Parliament House, meeting with Senator Helen Coonan’s Media Advisor who gave us 20 minutes of her time, and a commitment from Senator Coonan about signing the Micah Call!
On Tuesday evening we enjoyed a lovely awards dinner, reminiscing on the great trip we’d had and sharing ideas of actions we’d take when we arrived back home! Tasmania won the Best Flash Stunt award (NSW’s Operation Survive to Five Stunt below was for this competition) with an eerie yet powerful reminder of the children that are dying unnecessarily. Watch their stunt below this post and share it with your friends – we want 1000 views by the end of the week!
Our final day in Canberra saw us performing a stunt that will be replicated by World Vision Canada at the G8/G20 Summit in Toronto at the moment. After spray painting some toys, cots and prams in white the day before, we woke early to paint our faces white and head to the National Gallery for a photo opportunity. These incredibly haunting photos sought to again raise awareness about the 8.8 million children dying. We then marched on to Parliament House for a final photo shoot – meeting with some local media who took photos of our white faces and children’s toys and prams against the powerful backdrop of Parliament. We’re hoping these photos go viral and get thousands of people thinking! As more photos become available I’ll post a link for them here!
A big thanks to Christine, Jess, Brett and all the lovely community campaigners for making this a successful movement – I can’t wait to see what happens when we all head back home! Our short stint in Canberra proved very successful – we had lots of public and media attention, got trained to take these issues back home and had some very successful meeting with politicians! To see what VGEN groups will be getting up to back home, visit VGEN’s Blog and find out how to get involved! If you live in NSW and you’d like to join us on this movement to end poverty email firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll hook you up with the info and resources to start creating change in your communities!
Tassie’s fantastic and thought provoking video!