Big Issues

5 Talks From This Year’s TEDxYouth That Made Us Totally Psyched For The Future

Challenging, thought-provoking, inspiring.

Brought to you by TEDxYouth Sydney

[email protected] is a platform for ideas worth spreading designed for young changemakers, thinkers, innovators, activists, and entrepreneurs.

Let’s get the adjectives out of the way: challenging, thought-provoking, inspiring. These have become so synonymous with TED conferences that they hardly bear repeating.

This year, [email protected] invited young people from around Australia to contribute to their theme of ‘Shifting the Future’. And not a moment too soon.

In today’s gloomy news climate, it’s easy to become a little hopeless about the future. But it’s worth remembering that there are young people out there inventing, strategising, and innovating every day to make tomorrow a bit brighter.

Here are five such go-getters who took the stage at TEDxYouth Sydney and made us hyped about the years ahead.

Anastasia Volkova

As far as job titles go, ‘aeronautical engineer’ is definitely one of the more impressive-sounding, so one can only assume that Anastasia Volkova absolutely kills it at cocktail parties.

But the Ukrainian-born PhD student is much more than a title, having collaborated with NASA and UEFA – even snapping up the Amelia Earhart Fellowship for her commitment to advancing aerospace engineering.

Anastasia’s recognition in her field is the result of her passion to find real-world application for the technologies she works with. This lead her to co-found FluroSat, a Telstra-backed start-up centred on monitoring crops using drones and satellites.

So, you can add ‘CEO’ to that job title.

Nural Cokcetin

It would be safe to assume Dr Cokcetin, who is a research scientist at the ithree institute at University of Technology Sydney, takes her tea with honey. The microbiologist and research scientist has spent much of her career studying the medicinal properties of Australian honeys, from promoting good digestion to fighting antibiotic-resistant superbugs at both the University of Sydney and University of New South Wales.

Dr Cokcetin’s PhD at University of New South Wales uncovered several benefits of Australian honeys on the human gut. She’s also outed herself on Twitter as President of the Pun Appreciation Society, so expect plenty of those.

Tilly Lawless

Tilly made international headlines in 2015 when she challenged a Mamamia article on Instagram and Twitter. The article alleged that Julia Roberts’ character in Pretty Woman was not “the true face of prostitution”. Tilly took exception to this, and – being a queer sex worker herself – started the hashtag #facesofprostitution, which gained global traction.

These days, Tilly continues to write about her life, relationships, and experiences in the sex industry. In particular, she’s a passionate advocate for the rights of sex workers, who face damaging stigma in even the most progressive circles.

In a time when women’s rights around the world are being challenged – in both policy and popular commentary – voices like Tilly’s are more important than ever.

Anika Molesworth

Winner of Young Farmer of the Year 2015 and NSW Young Achiever Award for Environment and Sustainability 2017, Anika Molesworth has experienced first-hand the devastating effects climate change can have on agriculture. The drought endured by her family’s NSW sheep station sparked a deep passion for sustainable farming and environmental conservation.

Today, Anika is the founder of Climate Wise Agriculture, a knowledge sharing and networking platform that encourages sustainable, resilient agriculture practices in the face of global warming, and she’s also been instrumental in forming Farmers for Climate Action.

With another TEDx speaker, Jonathan Foley, calling global food supplies – or lack thereof – the “other inconvenient truth,” Anika’s work could prove truly vital in years to come.

Macinley Butson

Macinley is 16, she’s an inventor and this year she became the first ever Australian to win a 1st place award at the ‘Olympics of science’: the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair. Judges were wowed by Macinley’s invention of ‘Smart Armour’, a copper shield that aims to protect the healthy tissue of breast cancer patients who are under radiotherapy treatment. She’s also developed projects to help solve both solar power efficiency woes and clean water problems in third world communities.

But that’s not all the teen has ticked off her bucket list. Now leading the charge for young girls in the traditionally male dominated fields of science and medicine, she’s also been a National Youth Ambassador for Green Cross Australia and Wollongong Young Citizen of the Year.

(All images: TEDxSydney/Facebook)