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Young ambassador inspired by local saint


Inspired by the words of St Mary MacKillop – ‘never see a need without doing something about it’, young Mount Gambier parishioner Ally Finnis is making a difference to the lives of children as a Young Ambassador for UNICEF Australia.

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One of only nine South Australians selected from 450 applicants, Ally will this month begin her role which involves consulting with children and young people to encourage them to speak up for their rights. This information will be compiled and reported back to national decision-makers.

This is despite suffering chronic vestibular migraine, which has interrupted her tertiary studies but has not prevented her from volunteering at a local and national level for headspace, the National Youth Mental Health Foundation.

Since the age of 17, she has also been involved in volunteering for the local council and she is a reader at her local church, St Paul’s, Mount Gambier.

“I think being raised in the Catholic faith instilled in me, from an early age, the importance of doing what one can to help others, and the potential of small actions to ripple out into significant change,” Ally told The Southern Cross.

“When I was at Tenison, I was involved in student leadership (SRC, St Vincent de Paul) and participated in social justice initiatives. This also contributed to my desire to make a positive difference where I could.

“Over the years, a quote from St Mary of the Cross MacKillop (who began her work in nearby Penola) has stayed with me: ‘Never see a need without doing something about it.’

“Though I have a long way to go, I try to follow this teaching as I go about life.”

The Young Ambassador program is part of UNICEF Australia’s commitment to fulfil its obligations under the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.

The ambassadors, aged between 15 and 24, come from diverse life experiences and backgrounds throughout the five mainland states.

In July, 21-year-old Ally attended the announcement of the 2018 Young Ambassadors at the State Library of Victoria, Melbourne, where she was introduced by global UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador and Ambassador for Children Affected by War, Ishmael Beah, himself a former child soldier from Sierra Leone.

Ally said she wanted to become a UNICEF young ambassador because she believed in raising awareness of, and upholding, children’s rights and their ability to participate in discussions that affect them.

“I think it’s important for children to have a connection to their sense of self, what matters to them, and to a loving, safe and accepting community,” she said.

“I also place emphasis on the importance of connection in the context of understanding and being understood. Connection to others and the wider world is a part of being human – few things happen in isolation, and this has certainly been true of my own experiences.”

Admitting that over the next 12 months she would be on a steep learning curve, Ally said she was “really excited” about the different aspects of the role, in particular raising awareness of the rights of children with disabilities and supporting them to live full and independent lives.

“As a person with a disability, myself, it’s an issue that’s very close to my heart,” she said.

Similarly, she is looking forward to talking to groups about mental health because of her advocacy work with headspace.

Ally expressed her gratitude to her family for their support and love as she progressed along her Young Ambassador journey. Her proud mum Pat is secretary of the Mount Gambier parish.

She and the other ambassadors have received training to guide them in developing skills and knowledge in children’s rights, government advocacy, public speaking, media interviews and engagement and consultations with children and young people. They will spend the next six months consulting with children around Australia from all walks of life and diverse backgrounds.


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