OPINION An idea is the first step to real change- The Age
The 2020 Summit does matter as it will ensure voices are heard.
CRITICS of the 2020 Summit gatherings are overlooking an important point: ideas matter.
When 100 young people and a thousand other Australians wash up on the shores of Lake Burley Griffin this month, Canberra — nay, the nation — will never have seen a gathering like it since Federation. Though we all hail from different backgrounds and ideologies, we are unique and bound by our common devotion to a better Australia by 2020.
Cynics and nay-sayers have already dismissed both the youth and major summits as "talk fests". But they are overlooking a critical point: ideas matter. Words contribute significantly to the challenges before us and are most valuable. Dialogue defines us; what problems we are facing and what kinds of solutions we have for them. Cynics are half-right: ideas without action are meaningless — but action without thought is positively dangerous.
Having a better Australia in 2020 begins with a country that empowers more of its people to imagine and to act on their imagination. Ideas can and do shape reality — good ones as well as bad. A powerful idea can radically change our nation's future.
It is no accident that the youth summit is being held a week before the major summit. We are the generation that has to face up to the compelling challenges of tackling climate change, indigenous health, global poverty and mental health. These are more than key areas — they are critical moral issues that warrant recognising and acknowledging the truth and coming up with a clear long-term plan of action.
These problems are not going to be solved by special interests, but by people with creative ideas committed to using government to enhance each person's ability to live a better life. The responsibility is on us to come armed with a fresh set of eyes in looking at these burning moral issues.
"Think globally and act locally," the saying goes. But I would also say all participants attending the summits have to think and act globally. Every action, even the smallest one, has value in the wider world.
Nowhere is this more forcibly felt than in the fight against climate change. Challenges surrounding pollution stabilisation, carbon reduction and creating clean jobs are all before us. It is an urgent, daunting and unprecedented challenge for our generation and now a question of life and death. The science tells us we are facing a fried future that threatens our very existence. If we don't stay in the two-degree warming range, Australia will face a crisis because our nearest regional neighbours are particularly vulnerable to climate change.
Global warming and global poverty are morphing into one issue. By 2020 Australia should be among the world leaders in achieving the global blueprint to make poverty history. We have the plan, we have the resources, we just need the will. It is in our own interests to ensure stability and growth in the countries that surround us. There is a greater capacity for Australia to help, at relatively low cost and with the potential to reap benefits of our own.
At home, there is no more important national task or a more telling measure of our strength as a nation than ensuring all 460,000 indigenous citizens have access to the same quality of health care as other Australians. This is their human right and our collective responsibility. The Rudd Government's recent plan to tackle indigenous life expectancy is important. But we have to ensure it goes far beyond health. We need to break down the barriers between health, education and employment.
Another area where ideas and action are desperately needed is mental health. Here in the lucky country, seven people (mainly young people) take their lives each day. That's too many lives lost and needs urgent attention. The World Health Organisation says depression could soon be our leading disability, costing more people "the chance for productive lives" than almost any other illness. The stigma attached to mental illness is slowly being eroded. We now know that understanding mental health is the key to alleviating Australia's extremely high suicide rate.
The future does not belong to those who coast along, but those who reach out to the challenges ahead with new ideas and pursue them with unbounded energy. Let's not allow the reductionists to prevail. Let us focus our minds on change that is possible. The youth and major summit offer a chance for us to renew our commitment to sensible, constructive and creative changes that by 2020 will make a profound impact on people's everyday lives.
A torrent of ideas will no doubt flow out of both summits. Some of our greatest ideas could come from unexpected places. Despite what the critics will argue, those ideas will and do count. Such a result would honour our legacy as a hopeful nation.
Hugh Evans is a former Young Australian of the Year, recipient of the Sir John Monash Post-Graduate Scholarship and the co-chair of next week's 2020 Youth Summit.