Tamara's our
UNESCO pick

UQ's Tamara Richardson was chosen as one of two young people to represent Australia at the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation's Asia Pacific Youth Dialogue in Chengdu, China

UQ science student Tamara Richardson was recently selected as one of two young people to represent Australia at the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation’s (UNESCO) Asia Pacific Youth Dialogue in Chengdu, China. Here is her story.

If you had asked me on my first day at UQ five-and-a-half years ago what I thought l'd be doing today, making recommendations to inter-governmental bodies and heads of state wouldn’t have been my answer.

But in thinking about my journey with UQ, I am grateful that I have taken additional time to complete my science degree, taken the time to travel and work abroad, and put in the effort to develop networks find areas of interest.

Because four weeks ago, I received an email from the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) informing me that I was one of two youths selected to be an Australian ambassador to the UNESCO Asia Pacific Youth Dialogue in Chengdu, China.

Three weeks later, I was standing in front of Dr Marielza Oliveira (Director and UNESCO Representative to the UNESCO Beijing Office), Dr Dhirendra Bhatnagar (Chairman, The World Federation of UNESCO Clubs, Centers and Associations), Ms Eunice Smith (Program Specialist at the UNESCO Beijing Office) and Ms Claudia Maresia, (Program Specialist from UNESCO's head office in Paris), reporting on thematic recommendations from the parallel discussions on climate change and environmental sustainability that I had facilitated a day earlier.

More than 100 youth ambassadors from around 46 countries met in Chengdu

Hosted by UNESCO, the Government of the People’s Republic of China, Perfect World, and China's University of Electronic Science and Technology, the UNESCO Asia Pacific Youth Dialogue was held between 20 and 23 September.

More than 100 youth ambassadors from around 46 countries in the region met to discuss, debate and provide recommendations on six thematic topics, including human rights violations and gender based violence, the role of culture in promoting positive peace, peace in the technology era, youth social development, combating extremism, and climate change and environmental sustainability.

Along with a comrade from Fiji, I was incredibly fortunate to be selected by UNESCO to act as rapporteur for the parallel discussions on climate change and environmental sustainability. This was a great experience in enhancing communication skills, confidence and teamwork.

The event also provided the opportunity to explore other cultures, plus experiences such as a visit to the Chengdu Giant Panda Research Centre, as well as a wonderful opening ceremony that included a rendition of Adele!

We also attended plenary sessions and heard from Nanjing University's Liu Cheng; Tanzila Khan, a youth advocate from Pakistan; and Vahid Shahbazi, an Iranian Muay Thai champion.

As a Caucasian Australian, the fact that I could speak Mandarin meant that I was very popular with local Chinese university students and the local university media, and was in high demand for public speaking and other communication activities. These experiences were invaluable for learning about and understanding the development of other cultures and countries in our region, and provided an excellent platform to develop ideas, and to work towards greater intercultural dialogue.

Don't be afraid to pursue an idea, even if it leads you away from your peers.

Currently, I am working with a number of youth from Afghanistan, New Zealand, Australia, Pakistan, Singapore, Japan, China, India and Brunei on developing a youth-centred platform designed to promote intercultural discussion and learning in preserving Indigenous languages and cultures at risk of extinction. Despite my experiences in community development projects abroad, I have always had a particular interest in surgical and health development in South-East Asia, and hope that I can pursue this further in the future.

My advice for anybody interested in working in development is to not be afraid to pursue an idea, even if it leads you away from your peers. In addition, valuing education and exploring electives from a broad range of schools within the University is invaluable, alongside practical experience both domestically and abroad – even if it means taking longer to complete your degree.

With Tanzila Khan, a youth advocate and founder of Creative Alley, Pakistan

With Tanzila Khan, a youth advocate and founder of Creative Alley, Pakistan

Development encompasses such a broad array of disciplines, and the United Nations is just one vessel through which we are able to engage and develop tangible solutions. Never underestimate the power of yourself or the youth who surround you.

I am an undergraduate science student at UQ, and am also an administration officer for the UQ International Development Club. I recently chaired a panel discussion on women professionals in international development that included Australia’s Shadow Minister for International Development and The Pacific, Senator Claire Moore.

For more information and media reports, click here, and in Mandarin, here and here.

Visiting the Chengdu Giant Panda Research Centre with my Australian counterpart and our local and international student volunteers