By: Nishant Rao, Co-founder, CommonYouth Australia
I have often thought that the greatest strength of the Commonwealth lies in its interconnectedness. I was recently given the example that the Commonwealth acts as the original form of LinkedIn, where people around the world that share similar heritages and ideas are able to collaborate on some of the most pressing issues facing our societies today. Here I am, an Australian born in India writing a blog for a Canadian website on a computer recently acquired in Singapore. Surely we can’t get more connected than that? But what does this mean in practice in what is clearly a new age which actually has LinkedIn. Is the Commonwealth still relevant? This is one of the questions that I have always been confronted with in Australia (perhaps you, in Canada, have been asked the same question).
I’m writing at a particularly interesting time of the year because today we celebrate our national day - 26th January, Australia Day. We have a habit in Australia of calling anything we don’t like to be “unAustralian” and Australia Day remains one of the few days in the year when we actually ask what it means to be Australian in Australia. Essentially, we use Australia Day as a day to consider our identity. So perhaps, this Australia Day it might also be worth asking what it means to be Australian in the Commonwealth.
I can’t presume that I know what it means for the millions of Australian youth out there, but the answer that I often come to is this: for the average young person, the Commonwealth seems to be a relic of the past in Australia. Often, the Commonwealth is seen to be too synonymous with the monarchy (which is an intense and quite partisan issue in this country). For many Australian youths, the Commonwealth really only comes to the forefront with the Commonwealth Games. Australia is successful in most Games (just so you know) and so the Commonwealth becomes a way to fill the time between Olympic Games.
Yet, this sport-centric view makes us all seem a bit shallow, doesn’t it? In reality, Australian youth are amongst the most active in the world. There are so many great initiatives and non-profit organisations that have been founded by Australian youths to improve the standards of Australian society and beyond. It’s not that Australian young people don’t consider global issues; it’s just that the Commonwealth hasn’t always been the forum to which they’ve turned.
I’ve recently been fortunate enough to found a non-profit organisation called CommonYouth Australia with a few friends of mine. We hope that this organisation might give Australian youth the opportunity to turn their attention to the numerous and diverse projects that the Commonwealth pursue on a daily basis around the world. Australian youth are participating and engaging with social issues together more than ever before. We are more connected, through Facebook, Twitter and other social media outlets, than ever before. Perhaps it’s time to once more link up with some of the older networks that exist (after all, retro stuff is cool, right?) and one of the oldest networks in the world: the Commonwealth.