Apajok Apath and Yom Akech from St Columba’s College, together with Claudia Papillo from Thomas More College were sponsored by the Adelaide Archdiocese to attend the conference from November 30 to December 3. They were accompanied by Caritas Australia’s justice educator for SA, Suzy Penberthy, and Holly Roberts from the Catholic Office for Youth and Young Adults.
With the theme of ‘Pacific Perspectives’, the students agreed a highlight of the conference was hearing the stories from leaders in the region about how climate change is impacting their lives.
“Our Pacific leaders opened my eyes to the damage in our world from climate change, family abuse and not having the chance to become a resilient country,” said Claudia.
“To hear their stories not only saddened me but allowed me to want to fight harder for this cause, which met my hopes in being able to have a strong voice.”
Yom said the experience also opened her eyes to the aid being provided by Australia and “just how diminished it has become”.
“One could blame the government, but the Australian population plays a part in this too. I learnt from the conference that not enough people seem to care about the decreasing aid budget so the main thing I want to do is raise awareness and spread the word,” she said.
“The conference has enhanced my drive to make change and has made me more aware of just how urgently the world needs a helping hand – and I will do all I can to provide this.”
As part of the conference, attendees lobbied politicians about issues that were raised during the event.
“Meeting politicians was definitely a different experience… and one challenge was the pressure to present the information clearly to them,” said Apajok.
Run by Micah Australia, Voices for Justice was attended predominantly by youth who were encouraged to put their faith into action and ‘use your voice to speak on behalf of the voiceless’. Activities included workshops, training and lobbying Federal parliament for ‘more and better aid, to reduce extreme poverty’.
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