Culture

The Eight Most Important Issues For Young Australia (According To JUNKET’s Public Submissions)

From aged care to climate change, JUNKET is going to tackle the big questions.

This weekend, 200 of Australia’s brightest young people will be bashing their brains together at QT Canberra for Junkee’s inaugural three-day unconference, JUNKET. It’s gonna be kind of like a sleepover. But way, way dorkier.

The aim is a lofty one: to connect a diverse group of talented young folk who care about Australia — some big names, and some undiscovered talent — and who can help set the agenda for our country’s future.

On Sunday evening, those who want to will deliver a 60-second pitch, detailing a problem they want to solve, an idea they have to solve it, and the kinds of people they need to get the ball rolling.

Maybe they want to talk to scientists, artists, farmers, or entrepreneurs; maybe they need the help of graphic designers, app builders, public figures or professional communicators. Our curator Jess Scully and our programming committee have worked hard to hand-pick a diverse group from different cultures, industries, locations and identities, who have different skills and experiences and can help brainstorm the best ideas, and turn them into reality. Every idea that’s pitched will end up as a session the following day; it’s up to the delegates to pick which conversations they want to be a part of.

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The badges were delivered yesterday; here’s a sneak peak at the guest list.

There will be no audience at JUNKET; the aim is to encourage the kinds of free, open conversations that tend to happen in the breaks between sessions at regular conferences. But you can glimpse at some of the planned activities and follow the whole thing using the #JUNKET hashtag — and rest assured that the outcomes will be informing Junkee’s own agenda over the next year.

We opened submissions up to the public, and hundreds of people sent in the issues and ideas they wanted to bring to JUNKET. The following list is representative of some — not all — of these submissions. But every missive was read, and we hope the final group of delegates will represent the concerns that came up time and time again as important to young Australia.

I say “we hope” because it’s our first time at doing anything like this. No one knows what will happen. It could be a disaster.

But it probably won’t.

Food Is The Best. Also, The Environment.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, food sustainability, agriculture and the environment were huge themes among the public submissions we received. There’ll be a diverse range of delegates representing these issues from all sides of the conversation: from scientists to farmers to food experts; from climate advocates to critics to chefs.

Problems to solve:

  • How do we transition from consumerism to sustainability, without losing the comforts of the modern world?
  • How do we get people thinking critically about what and how they eat?
  • Fast fashion comes at a cost. How do we get young people to care about it?

Ideas suggested:

  • Let’s form a tech-driven coalition of diverse groups – from farmers to scientists to religious leaders to professional communicators – to teach Australia new ways to combat climate change.
  • Let’s teach Australians to read their energy bills and understand more about the easy steps they can take to help the climate and environment.
  • Divestment is important, powerful, and easy; we need to get the message out.

Old People Are People Too (And We Need To Support Carers)

This one took us by surprise a little: we had a heap of submissions from young people who wanted to foster more awareness of issues around carers, and harness new technologies to help them.

Problems to solve:

  • How can we get more young people involved in aged care?
  • What initiatives can we develop to provide more support for carers, and help them communicate with their peers?

Ideas suggested:

  • Virtual nurse triages can manage initial contact between patients and providers, and help improve outcomes and efficiency – especially in rural areas.
  • Let’s build a better online community for carers, to share their experiences and resources and help support each other.

Let’s Talk About Sex. And Gender. And Sexuality.

Gender issues and sexuality came up again and again. From feminism to domestic violence to gender representation and queer issues, we’ll have most bases covered at JUNKET.

Problems to solve:

  • Why do brands, government and workplaces change the way they talk to women when they become mothers?
  • How can we get more women in gaming, science, tech, engineering and mathematics? And how can we make women in research more visible?
  • Political gains for the queer community seem to be benefiting middle-class gay people at the expense of more vulnerable LGBTQIA Australians. Meanwhile, meaningful community participation is being replaced by outrage culture, and identity politics are getting in the way of collective action and intersectionality. How do we keep queer communities alive?

Ideas suggested:

  • Violence against women, sexual assault, depression, suicide; all these are informed by toxic modes of masculinity, but they are rarely challenged from within. We need more safe spaces for men, online and offline, to negotiate the potential and pitfalls of masculinity, and create a better future generation of men.
  • We need to learn from groups like Destroy The Joint and SlutWork, to find more ways for women to use social media to create real world change.
  • Let’s use technology to build a creative and innovative response to the domestic violence crisis in Australia, to engage more young people to drive national change.

Houses Are Expensive And We’re All Kind Of Screwed

So here’s something: I’ve been in various stable jobs since I graduated from uni seven years ago. I’m thrifty. I’m financially literate. My rent is not extortionate, and I come from a privileged background. But I’m growing more and more aware that home ownership for me might never be a possibility. It’s baffling to imagine what this anxiety must feel like for those worse-off.

The changing workforce, decline of unionism, income inequality, financial literacy and the housing crisis will all be big issues at Junket.

Problems to solve:

  • How can we prepare young people for (and protect young people from) the negative effects of the changing workplace, the sharing economy, and the rise of unpaid internships?
  • How do we build the political will to help fix Australia’s intergenerational inequality?
  • Is there a way to bypass politicians and, as a collective, find ways to make housing more affordable in Australia?
  • The media is saturated with writers and commentators who come from privileged backgrounds; people who can afford to write for free, or for very little; people who have a safety net to fall back on. This means we’re only hearing one kind of voice. How do we get more socioeconomic diversity in the press, so income inequality can be a focus of the national agenda?

Ideas suggested:

  • The decline in unionism is threatening the future of collective worker power in Australia. Let’s reverse that trend, and help unions reinvent themselves and speak to young Australians.
  • With rising homelessness, youth unemployment and socioeconomic disparity, we could use public spaces like libraries and parks to help the vulnerable weather the effects of their economic disadvantage.
  • We need to teach young people about how to manage their money, and what their rights are as workers.

Arts, Creativity, And The Fun Stuff

A huge cross-section of creative Australia will be attending JUNKET: dancers, artists, musicians, writers, TV stars, producers and theatre-folk. It’s a good thing, too: the current government has showed an unwillingness to prioritise Australia’s creative output, so that industry either needs to successfully lobby for more funding, or find new ways to support itself.

Problems to solve:

  • If the Australian government continues cutting funding to the arts, how do we help creatives find new ways to get money, and teach them better business skills?
  • How can we help promote and foster young Australian writers?
  • How can we make the arts a more diverse space, while avoiding tokenism?
  • How can the different artistic fields come together to lobby for funding and policy change?

Ideas suggested:

  • The internet offers a huge potential for marginalised writers who are excluded from the traditional publishing world. This has already led to increased exposure for LGBTQIA voices and people of colour; how do we uncover new digital communities that are under-utilised in Australia?
  • Let’s get governments and corporates more engaged with fostering creativity and art, by offering empty spaces to local artists, and pushing people out of their comfort zones to help them document their stories.
  • Let’s bring together successful artists and communities and more marginalised voices, to build real mentorship programs that could help those who struggle to find not only their artistic voice, but the money to support it.

Race Relations, Asylum Seekers And Indigenous Australia

Australia’s historical mistreatment of Indigenous Australians presents a huge challenge for the next generation, who judging by our public submissions want to find new ways to preserve the Indigenous communities that still exist around Australia, and help undo the damage.

The public submissions process unsurprisingly exposed the complicated race relations issues that exist in Australia, which extend to minority cultures, religious groups and asylum seekers, and which are becoming increasingly urgent and more visible.

Problems to solve:

  • How do we help make the existing and disparate Indigenous communities around Australia more sustainable?
  • How can we imbue the Australian curriculum with more teaching about Indigenous history, culture and languages?
  • At what point will we stop asking whether Australia is racist, and start asking how to cure Australia’s racism?
  • How can we get more minority groups represented in the public arena?

Ideas suggested:

  • Let’s learn from Indigenous culture – particularly Dreaming, and rites of passages – to make the next generation of Australians, whatever their background, a stronger, healthier and more open-minded one.
  • Let’s apply the skills of advertisers, graphic designers and PR professionals to better communicate the current crisis befalling Indigenous Australia and minority groups.
  • Let’s develop a federal minority think tank, to codify minority voices in politics.
  • Let’s build an app or digital networking platform to connect businesses and community centres with unemployed or homeless refugees and asylum seekers.

What Is A STEM?

It’s not all activists and social entrepreneurs; the Junket delegates we’ve selected come from a range of expert industries across Science, Tech, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM), and the agenda will no doubt reflect that.

3D printing came up a whole lot, for some reason?

Problems to solve:

  • How can we promote interdisciplinary research in science, so we can work together to solve the biggest problems facing society — like curing diseases, and discovering better materials?
  • How can Australia best harness the potential of 3D printing, while keeping an eye on the ethical challenges it presents?
  • How can we achieve better gender representation in STEM industries?

Ideas suggested:

  • We need to teach Australia’s next generation of STEM experts how to better communicate their research, findings and ideas.
  • We need to invest more in biotechnology, to help secure Australia’s food future.
  • Gaming has the potential to create real change for this country; it could help get kids more involved in politics and social issues, and presents huge opportunities for journalism as well. Let’s talk about how to get gaming on the national agenda.

Brains

Education is key to most of the issues that will form the JUNKET agenda — but a whole lot of people wanted to talk specifics, too.

Problems to solve:

  • How can we find more creative ways to teach children who are excluded from the traditional curriculum by forces outside their control, so they stay engaged in education too?
  • Too many young people suffer from mental health issues like depression, anxiety and eating disorder; and too many young people are lost to suicide. How can we help educate young people about mental health issues, to remove the stigma and get them talking to each other?
  • Should society limit the use of smart phones in schools and universities, to force people to reconnect with nature, culture and the society around them?

Ideas suggested:

  • Let’s build better mentorship programs for young people.
  • Let’s start workshops to teach more kids to code.
  • Let’s find new ways to teach kids how to protect their privacy online, from an earlier age.
  • Let’s introduce a thirteenth school year, where kids get taught all the grown-up stuff we never got taught: like tax, superannuation, budgeting, and how the Australian democratic system actually works.
  • Let’s teach architecture, design and urban planning from an early age, to foster future innovation and focus more on the big issues around how we use space.

These are just some of the many topics that will be brought to Canberra this weekend. But if you’re worried an issue might be left behind, contact the delegates through the #JUNKET hashtag — because they have the power to pitch it.

Junket takes place at the QT Canberra on November 1-3.

Visit the Junket website here.