St Thomas More Trains Young Political Activists

Together Youth, August 2009

For the first week of July, I was one of four Wagga Wagga diocese youth (1 from Griffith, 2 from Albury, and 1 from Lavington) who participated in a Young Political Activists Training Programme, sponsored by the Thomas More Centre, which was held in Mannix College, Melbourne.

We joined a great group of fifteen young people from Sydney, Queensland, South Australia, and Victoria in learning more about how we can have an impact in shaping Australian society. Each day began with Mass in the Mannix Chapel; which was a wonderful way to focus our thoughts before the learning began.

Among my favourite speakers were Rita Joseph, former official advisor to Australian UN delegations, who spoke on the fascinating history of the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights; Dr Adam Cooper, Honorary Fellow at the University of Melbourne and current Lecturer at the JPII Institute in Melbourne, who spoke on responsible Christian protest and the need to enact a ‘politics of love’; and Peter Westmore, President of the National Civic Council, who spoke on the inspiring life and legacy of B.A. Santamaria, the late lay political and social conscience of Australia. Having the opportunity to converse with several state and Federal MPs was also very informative and insightful.

Through workshops we were equipped with skills such as public speaking, writing government submissions, forming a relationship with your MP, influencing the media, and debating. It wasn’t all work however; we got to visit Melbourne landmarks (including a fun morning at the Queen Victoria Markets; I recommend the doughnuts) and also went to a free barbeque provided by the young pro-life group Vitae Australia after Holy Hour at the Cathedral.

Possibly the greatest highlight for me was the day spent at Parliament House where, as well talks and workshops, we got a personal tour of Parliament and high tea!

The week culminated in an exciting and thought-provoking debate which allowed us to put in to practise what we had learnt.

Learning about the ideologies which have formed our current culture and how to effectively change our society for the better were the most valuable lessons for me. Hearing stories of success, such as the Amendment to the Federal Marriage Act in 2004 and the defeat of the Victorian pro-euthanasia Dying with Dignity Bill in 2008, now gives me the courage to never again say that there is nothing I can do. My generation is the Australia of tomorrow; we need to be willing to accept the challenge of building a bright and better future.

Fiona Reeves