What are today’s young people really like? While we often hear about the negative misconceptions that exist, more than 1,000 young people are attending this weekend’s leading social change festival, Unleashed, to challenge them.
Flocking to Fed Square from every corner of the country, they’re here to discuss the big issues facing our society, from brilliant ideas for the future to how we can create a better world.
We’ve interviewed three of these incredible young people, who have each pioneered change in their own way.
Thomas Crosbie – Shortlisted for Gamechanger Award
“The younger generation of thinkers, makers and doers have a lot to offer our world… I think a lot of people find it hard to express, build up and get their ideas out.”
Thomas started a service taking donations of old or broken computers through his Facebook page, Computer Donations for Gippsland. He collects the computers, fixes them up, updates them with the latest software and then gives them to families in his local area who can’t afford their own computer. Through this project he has started his own IT business in a shed on his property.
Fed Square: Thomas, you identified a need – families in your area who couldn’t afford their own computer – and created a solution. What did you learn in the process?
Thomas Crosbie: In this process l learned quite a few things, and gained some essential life skills. This included how to quickly set a bunch of computers all at once which enabled me to give them out quicker. I also improved on my valuable life skills, such as communication and dealing with different situations.
What motivates you?
I was mostly motivated by the fact that I could offer lots of people things that were not necessarily available due to location and financial statuses. Also knowing that instead of sitting on the couch, not achieving anything, that I could actually make someone smile and actually have something to look forward to.
What does the younger generation of thinkers and makers and doers have to offer Australia in IT and business?
The younger generation of thinkers, makers and doers have a lot to offer our world. They all have ideas, each and every one of them. I think a lot of people find it hard to express, build up and get their ideas out. That’s where I feel FYA and the Unleashed Festival comes into play, enabling this generation to get out and see that anything can happen from a small idea, just like my project originally was.
You’re currently shortlisted for the GameChanger award. What would winning the award mean to you?
I would be absolutely blown away if I won this award. It would offer practically everything that my project needs to grow and expand. The $1000 up for grabs is a massive help welcome to whichever project claims the title, not just my own.
What advice do you have for young people today?
I would really recommend having a think about what’s around the local and wider community, and see if there is some way you could start or change something. It doesn’t have to be something big. Your small impact could grow and become a massive impact. But, who knows, unless you start!
How would you like to see Australia change as it moves into the future?
The main thing I would love to see is the pricing for technology in Australia to drop to match other countries. Google is the main company who is looking to do this, and I feel if this happens, people could actually go out, and buy their own technology, where they might not be able to now.
Alexie Seller – Speaker Series
“Young people always get a bad rap but if anything the young people I work with are courageous, resilient and resourceful. I love that.”
Alexie Seller, co-founder of Pollinate Energy, originally embarked upon a career in engineering to fuel a ravenous need to understand how and why the world was the way it was. Whilst studying and working, Alexie spent her spare time working with under-privileged communities, working with orphaned or urban poor children across central America, teaching hip hop in the Christmas Island detention centres, and finally leading the Engineers Without Borders energy hub. It wasn’t going to be long before she would see these two worlds collide, and is now bringing her expertise in project management and engineering, along with valuable knowledge in the NGO sector, to support the growth of Pollinate Energy – a social enterprise bringing renewable energy to the urban poor.
Fed Square: Alexie, you originally began a career in engineering before moving into the social enterprise space. How did it all begin?
Alexie Sellers: Straight after high school I spent three months working as a volunteer English teacher in the Dominican Republic. I met an incredibly talented and intelligent 12-year old, Elijah. He was finishing year 6, but I soon learned that that would be the end of his, and 95% of his class-mates’ education. I resolved to use my own opportunities in education for a better outcome. Whatever I was good at could surely be used to help others. So I studied engineering (renewable energy) and pursued a career that would use engineering to make the world a better place. To be honest I’m kind of blown away that I am able to do that so soon into my career with Pollinate Energy.
What big idea would you like more Australians – young and old – to explore?
There are so many ideas in the world, that I would like to counter this with what ideas do Australians think that they can back. I came into Pollinate Energy when it was just starting out. I met some of the then cofounders and was inspired by what they were doing. Pollinate Energy is definitely not just one person’s dream or ‘baby’ and that is what has made it so successful. I never felt the need to invent my own idea and lead it, and I think the world needs more people who aspire to collaborate and work together on problems because no single person can achieve greatness without a great team around them.
Young people today seem to get a bad rap. What have you experienced?
The exact opposite. Young people always get a bad rap (hasn’t this been going on for generations?) but if anything the young people I work with are courageous, resilient and resourceful. They all have an incredible desire to make sure that they do meaningful work and that they have fun while they do it. I love that.
There have been significant changes in the social enterprise space in Australia since Pollinate first began – what do you think the future has in store?
I am so excited about the future for social enterprise in Australia, it really is only just beginning. I think there are some big hurdles still, but with recent changes particularly in the funding space and the rhetoric around what it means to be a small-business or a start-up, more talented young people are starting to see social enterprise as a real option instead of climbing the corporate ladder.
You have worked with countless young people in Australia and abroad who are passionate about creating social change. What has this taught you?
It has taught me that to truly feel happy, you need to listen carefully to yourself and what you need. It is not enough to mimic somebody else’s journey, but you should explore, test your ideas, and open your eyes to the opportunities out there. We see hundreds of young people come through our doors on our programs in India, but rather than convert them to our cause (which we obviously believe in) we challenge them to tell us what they believe in and want to be doing, and then we help them construct a path and give them champions to help them do that in their career.
Janie Gordon – Concert
“My advice would be to just be yourself. Everyone is different in their own way… I think being different is something the music industry is looking for today.”
Janie Gordon is a talent to watch. Hailing from regional Victoria, the 17-year-old has been singing and song-writing since her primary school days, having played at numerous busking festivals, weddings and eisteddfods. More recently, Janie scored a slot at The Hills Are Alive and NYE on the Hill festivals and her first Melbourne show in support of Mike Waters, where she impressed the crowd. With new songs on the go, be sure to keep an eye out for this promising young artist.
Fed Square: Janie, you’ve performed in countless events and festivals over the years before scoring your first Melbourne show. What did you learn along the way?
Janie Gordon: I have learnt so much along the way! I am always trying to improve and listen to new hints and tips from anyone within the music industry. I learnt to just be myself and jump at any opportunities I am offered. Mainly, I have learnt to just enjoy the ride and be myself!
Do you think the music industry is a supportive place for a teenager to be?
Yes definitely! There are so many young teenagers trying to make it within the music industry and there are a number of ways that support that! Facebook, YouTube, Sound Cloud, Band Camp and Triple J Unearthed are just some of the ways teenagers can spread their music. Everyone is always so supportive of young talent.
Some people find the fear of public speaking, singing and performing debilitating. How do you deal with the nerves?
I have to say, I never really get nervous. When I was younger I would get little butterflies, and sometimes I still do, but the minute I start performing I just focus on having fun and connecting with others through my music. I always picture myself just back at home, jamming in by bedroom haha.
What advice do you have for young people starting out in music today?
My advice would be to just be yourself. Everyone is different in their own way, and I believe that if you have something to share, you should have the right to share it. Personally, I think being different is something the music industry is looking for today, so if you have a special talent, use it! Share it with everyone! Make sure you enjoy yourself and don’t be afraid to take a risk!
Do you think Australia places enough importance on the next generation of musicians?
I think so, yes. Like I said earlier there are so many options available for individuals to spread their music and be heard. Australia offers numerous festivals and competitions that help to find the next generation of musicians.
How would you like to see Australia change as it moves into the future?
There are so many young performers in the country areas and I think more opportunities need to be available for them to share their music! More events, competitions or venues, like there is in the city, should be available for young singers/musicians to spread their talents.