Madeline Wells, a Wemba Wemba and trawlwoolway woman from Tasmania, has been selected to attend the Forum on Human Rights, Democracy and Rule of Law this November in Geneva. The theme for this year's forum is “Widening the Democratic Space: the role of youth in public decision-making.”
Madeline's selection to attend the forum is the latest in an impressive list of achievements in recent years. At just 20 years old, Madeline has been awarded the 2013 Tasmanian Aboriginal student of the year, was selected to represent Australia in China at the 2014 APEC Youth Skills Summer Camp, has joined the Indigenous Youth Climate Coalition (SEED), and is currently working as a community producer with Arts for Social Change organisation, Big hART.
Madeline is a staunch advocate for Indigenous rights, and for human rights more broadly, and has already actively been involved in campaigns around domestic violence, climate justice, and incarceration.
Madeline told NITV that during her visit, she hopes to get an insight in international networks, further information on activism on Indigenous issues and how to implement UN laws into allowing young people to feel supported.
"I am looking forward to being a part of this forum," she says. "Especially with recent events of injustices against Aboriginal youth in Australia, the need for young people being able to contribute to decision making is important."
The Forum aims to provide a platform for promoting dialogue and cooperation on issues pertaining to the role of youth in public decision-making, with the aim of identifying and analysing best practices, challenges and opportunities for States to secure respect for human rights, democracy and the rule of law.
"We matter, our lives matter, and our futures should be able to be shaped by us."
Madeline was nominated to attend the forum by Alex Kline, a Tasmanian Community Organiser for Amnesty Australia. Alex says she nominated Madeline because she "is an outstanding leader and advocate for social change. I hope the trip gives Madeline the opportunity to represent other young human rights and Indigenous rights activists from around Australia while meeting with international leaders."
In the weeks leading up to the forum, Madeline plans to hold face to face discussions with other youth in her community to talk about the themes of the forum; the barriers to engaging in public decision making, the importance of human rights, and how decision makers can better incorporate the views of youth in developing public policy.
Upon her return to Australia, Madeline plans to facilitate a debrief Amnesty’s Youth activists around Australia, and to present a summary of her experience at the forum to school groups and other young Human Rights advocates.
"It's time to make change and I hope to be able to inspire more conversations, especially in rural communities such as mine," Madeline told NITV. "I'm only one person out of many great young activists, but what I hope to bring back is more ideas of how I can contribute to the movement, and advocate for young people on a higher level. Not just for my people, but also young Indigenous people all over the world. We matter, our lives matter, and our futures should be able to be shaped by us."
'Widening the Democratic Space: the role of youth in public decision-making' will be held 21-22 November 2016.