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Young people working for change

By May Miller-Dawkins and Tim Lehâ - posted Monday, 5 December 2005

It is not a figment of our imagination that, for the first time, young people know each other and work together for change across the globe. The Oxfam International Youth Parliament is a network of young leaders in 92 countries who are working for positive change in their own communities. These young people are in no way homogenous. They come from unique communities, and work on a diversity of issues at local, national, regional and international levels.

In PNG and Southern Africa they are combating HIV-AIDS with peer education, in Mexico, Fiji and Pakistan they are advocating for the rights of women; and in India, East Timor and Zambia they are working with farmers to achieve sustainable livelihoods. In their connection to each other their work is strengthened. The power of their connectedness is in human rights educators sharing materials between the Solomon Islands and Zimbabwe and by common campaigns for peace through Africa or for trade justice across 20 countries.

It is the diversity and distinctiveness of action partners that makes the OIYP network dynamic. We have found that connecting young people already working for change in their own communities strengthens all of their work as they draw on each other’s experiences, ideas and resources. Their conversations about gender or strategies for combating HIV-AIDS reveal their diversity and create a dynamic environment for new ideas and new approaches to be developed or shared.


One Australian action partner is Tim Lehâ. Tim is a Kamilaroi and Tongan young Australian. Tim’s work focuses on addressing the lack of representation of Indigenous people in the media. He works for balanced depictions of Indigenous people, media created by Indigenous people, and media developed in culturally appropriate ways. He’s trying to create an alternative to the outdated media content already in the public domain in Australia and, globally, to challenge perceptions held by non-Indigenous people, and provide realistic images for Indigenous people. Tim has been working this year with Living Black on SBS, recording a different style and type of story about Indigenous people across Australia.

May Miller-Dawkins sat down and had a yarn with Tim Lehâ about his views on youth culture, the universal and the particular.

MMD: Is youth culture homogenised?

TL: We are homogenised “only if we don’t resist” … I would argue for the particular.

MMD: Well, what defines “youth culture”?

TL: Youth culture is defined by young people. We relate to any social sphere based on our experience. As an Indigenous person I don’t want to generalise. For a lot of Indigenous people the last thing we want to do is say we represent people other than ourselves.


My experience is very specific - I’m from an Indigenous community so there are universal aspects but my interpretation is very specific. I grew up non-traditionally and my Dad’s Tongan so I identify as Tongan also. Identity, any kind of identity, is malleable.

MMD: What are the differences between you and your parent’s generation?

TL: There are socio-economic differences between the generations of my family. I think that my parents are a product of their generation - they have a commitment to working for work’s sake and for survival. I, on the other hand, have resisted working solely for money. I am not willing to work myself to the bone for little reward. But in the end, socially conscious people tend to do that anyway. So maybe it’s just a different way of manifesting.

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About the Authors

May Miller-Dawkins is 24-years-old. She is the Program Co-ordinator of the Oxfam International Youth Parliament - a network of young people working for change in their own communities.

Tim Lehâ is 26-years-old, of Kamilaroi and Tongan heritage. He views ‘Living Black’ as an opportunity to learn more about the issues faced by Aboriginal people from all walks of life day-to-day, and to give a voice to those who otherwise would not be empowered to have their’s be listened to.

Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

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