Shaarn Hayward, pictured, is a Camden Haven High School graduate from the class of 2008. On July 3 she was announced as one of nine UNICEF Australia Young Ambassadors.
Aged between 15 and 24, the Young Ambassadors will represent the views and interests of Australia’s young people and act as a youth spokesperson.
“As a young Indigenous person gaining a law degree, this role has opened an opportunity to advocate for young Australians and young Indigenous peoples,” she said.
Shaarn, who is now 21, is studying law at the University of New South Wales. She spent a year working at Higgins & Dix Lawyers in Laurieton between her HSC and starting university. She says it was this experience that made her sure she wanted to pursue a career in Law.
Her involvement in the school’s Student Representative Council also showed her that her voice could be heard.
Shaarn says she is grateful for the support and scholarships that have lent a hand to her.
“Unfortunately not all young people are exposed to these experiences and opportunities, let alone a primary education or adequate healthcare,” she said.
“It’s important that people understand that this is happening with our own country, not just overseas.”
Shaarn is currently a recipient of the Shalom Gamarada Scholarship and the Australian Uranium Association Indigenous Leadership Scholarship. She works as a paralegal at Clayton Utz, a top tier law firm in Sydney.
She is also a student ambassador for Nura Gili Indigenous student centre at University of NSW.
Shaarn’s role with UNICEF Australia will see her speaking to schools and various other community groups to raise awareness about UNICEF and how to join the organisation.
UNICEF Australia Chief Executive, Norman Gillespie said: “We are thrilled to welcome these exceptional young Australians into the role as UNICEF Australia Young Ambassadors.
“Each has shown leadership and drive for achieving a world where the rights of all children are realised.”
“They will play a unique role as youth campaigners and work alongside UNICEF Australia to represent the views and interests of Australia’s young people. I look forward to working with them over the next 12 months and seeing the achievements and gains made possible.”
In recent weeks Shaarn has spoken out about the importance of a referendum to remove racist sections from the Constitution of Australia.
She expressed her views at the recent National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples Youth Leadership Program, where she and other young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people commented on the importance of Constitutional Recognition.
Lyne MP Robert Oakeshott has also commented on the issue. He has appealed for government leaders to agree on the wording of a referendum question that would see Australians vote on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander recognition in the Australian Constitution.
“If we’re doing Welcome to Country and other celebrations of Aboriginal culture it only makes sense to have these changes made to the words of our constitution,” Ms Hayward said.
“I think it’s something that needs to be discussed more often and I’m glad someone from the area I grew up in is getting behind it.”
The referendum was due to be held before the election scheduled for next year to fulfil a promise Labor made to the Greens and independents to form government. It now looks likely the referendum will be delayed.
Mr Oakeshott has asked Prime Minister Julia Gillard and Opposition leader Tony Abbott to agree to the wording of a referendum so it could be put to the Australian people before the 2013 election.
“Constitutional recognition of our 40,000 year-old-history is surely an issue that transcends the day-to-day battlefield of politics,” Mr Oakeshott said.
Shaarn says she welcomes Mr Oakeshott’s comments and whole-heartedly agrees with a recommendation made in January by an expert panel that the Constitution be altered to remove racist sections and create power for the advancement of Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders and the protection of language and culture.
More information about the UNICEF and the Young Ambassadors programme is available on their Facebook page: www.facebook.com/unicefaustraliayoungambassadors or the UNICEF Australia website: www.unicef.org.au.