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Lunch with Leaders – Importance of Global Citizenship

Opinion piece by Morgan Farley, Student, Curtin University

Thursday 17th September’s Lunch With Leaders forum was host to an engaging discussion of identity and global citizenship. We were joined by Abdullahi Alim phoning in from Geneva, Jeffrey Effendi phoning in from Perth, Michael Sheldrick in New York City and finally Jessica Smith phoning in from Dubai.

After an inspiring welcome video and stimulating Welcome to Country, the session kicked off with Abdullahi sharing his personal path. Abdullahi shared his experience of discrimination and struggle to hold his Muslim identity as well as his Australian identity. He expressed his gratitude for the platform and opportunity of the Australian of the Year Awards, saying that it “gave me the opportunity to connect with people like me and reassure them that you’re Australian as much as you want to be Australian”. He went on to say, “you should never bargain your own identity”, delivering an important message particularly to the students listening.

Jessica Smith then shared the story of her career as a disabled athlete, where rather than letting people “make assumptions of what her body couldn’t do”, she showed them everything she could do. Through the journey of her career, Jessica’s focus shifted from solely competing and training to, “how can I use my voice and my platform to help others”.

Jeffrey Effendi was asked about his goals and inspirations behind creating DrawHistory, to which he spoke about his immigration to Australia. After realising law wasn’t his passion, Jeffrey began volunteering and discovering that his immigration story was one very familiar to a lot of young students. Jeffrey “wanted to empower people whose stories needed to be amplified.”

The fourth speaker, Michael Sheldrick, shared his experience growing up in Perth in relation to the education system. Michael struggled with a speech impediment when starting high school and told us about his later academic success stemming from the support of his teacher. He spoke of his gratitude of the Australian education system when comparing his experience to the systems of other countries, saying that’s “why I feel so driven to see the extension of that opportunity to students everywhere.”

The four speakers then launched into a discussion of what it means to be a global citizen. The overarching response was, as Jessica put it, “it’s the small things that matter”. She went on to say “it’s the desire to want to understand what we don’t know, and that can start with a simple conversation.”

Although ‘global citizenship’ sounds like such a daunting phrase, these speakers encouraged the audience by explaining that it’s all in the simple actions; it starts with a conversation, considering actions we take in our daily lives, and “taking steps to learn” as Jeffrey said.

Abdullahi summarised what it means to be a global citizen; discussing how it’s not some unattainable thing for only certain people, rather it’s as simple as having “the ability to care for issues beyond your lived experience” and being “willing to do the work and humility to understand”.

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