At a convention centre on the shores of the Brisbane River, 550 youth from Queensland and northern New South Wales gathered from 14 to 16 September for the first of three youth conferences to be held in Australia. The remarkable diversity of those present was notable—a diversity that was reflected in the many languages in which prayers were recited during the morning sessions and by the variety of cultural dances that were performed in the evenings.
The opening session included an indigenous ceremonial dance by youth from Far North Queensland, paying their respects to the traditional elders of the area, and the day culminated with a prayer sung by participants from the Torres Strait Islands. During their workshop sessions, those gathered began their discussions about the characteristic desire of their age group to bring about constructive change in their communities, and explored ways in which they could assist the younger generations to direct their abilities towards selfless service to society. In their conversations, they spoke about the need to learn to see connections among the various aspects of life—–such as education, work, family and leisure—and foster a life revolving around service, in which all other dimensions complement each other. One youth said, “Service is not an additional component but an integral aspect of our daily lives.” While another participant shared, “All our decisions should be shaped by one idea: to make the world better than how we found it.”
“Service is not an additional component but an integral aspect of our daily lives.”
A participant at the conference
During plenary sessions, a number of youth expressed their joy in being able to join their peers in discussions about how they could put into practice their longing for a better society. A youth from Ipswich shared how he had been invited to participate at the conference and what a turning point it had been for him. “There are so many youth out there that want to contribute but don’t know how,” he added. Another participant shared how the community-building process in which he has been engaged with his friends has encouraged him to strive to develop his moral and intellectual capacities, and having grown up in a family facing severe challenges such as alcoholism, this experience had allowed him to find a renewed sense of hope and purpose.
The participants’ gratitude for being part of a global process was translated into a desire to extend the conversation to many others upon their return home. “It is both our responsibility and our privilege,” said one youth. On the last evening of the conference, groups shared with their fellow participants what they planned on doing after their departure. The friends from Central Queensland had decided to visit neighbouring communities and meet regularly with other youth striving to contribute to the material, spiritual and intellectual development of their neighbourhoods and towns in order to support them in their efforts.
With a strong sense of mission and renewed determination, participants departed after three days of engaging discussions, eager to invite their friends and co-workers to arise to participate alongside them.
Participants perform a traditional dance as part of the opening of the conference
A group of youth study one of the sections of the material together
Young people between the ages of 15 and 30 gathered to discuss how to better serve their communities
The conference was filled with both purposeful study and joyful fellowship
One of the large workshops group studies the material with the assistance of a facilitator
A group shares the fruit of their deliberations
Each group came up with artistic ways to illustrate the concepts they had been exploring
Songs and other artistic expressions were shared during both plenary and group sessions
A spirit of joy and focus imbued the atmosphere
Participants shared songs inspired by the Bahá’í Writings