24 March 2005


A criticism sometimes expressed is that modern youth is selfish, materialistic and little concerned about social issues (although it could be asked if their parents' generation is any different). Whatever the validity of that general claim, there are certainly significant numbers of young people for whom that is not true.

For example over fifty students from Edmund Rice Schools in Victoria gathered recently at St Bernards College in Essendon for a social justice seminar on the theme of refugees. Speakers provided an overview of the functioning of Australia’s legal system in dealing with refugees and asylum seekers and presented personal stories which placed a human face on those caught up in that system.

Students pledged to become informed about issues of social justice, to raise awareness of these issues in their school communities and to become active participants in the debates and decision making processes in regard to a range of social justice issues.

At the same time many students from a variety of schools regularly give generously of their time to act as volunteer tutors for the children of refugee families who attend the Edmund Rice Refugee Service centres in St Albans and Sunshine. Other young people continue to be active as volunteers with organizations such as Edmund Rice Camps Victoria which has been providing holiday camps for children and families who would not otherwise have that opportunity.

Yet another example of young people making a difference was demonstrated at the recent launch of Eastweb an initiative of a group of young people concerned at the discrimination and marginalisation experienced by indigenous, asylum seeker and refugee communities in Australia. Eastweb aims to work with these communities to combat disadvantage and create long-term change in areas of health care, employment, education and the preservation and maintenance of cultural heritage by encouraging the involvement of those able to share their resources of wealth, time and skills.

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