Summit looks to the future with optimism

By John Lewis

Young people from the Goulburn Valley and around the world were treated to a morning of inspiration and optimism at the third annual Nelson Mandela Youth Leadership Summit hosted from Shepparton yesterday.

More than 200 people attended yesterday's two-hour Zoom session including migrants, former refugees, students from Shepparton district schools, and youth leaders from international locations such as the United States and Asia.

Speakers included Victoria's Lead Scientist Dr Amanda Caples, Victorian Chamber of Commerce and Industry president Karyn Sobels, Former Victorian Liberal MP and Chief Optimism Officer at The Centre for Optimism Victor Perton, and USA Consul General, Melbourne-based Michael F Kleine.

The session was led by educator, youth advocate and founder of the Ghandi Experiment Margaret Hepworth.

Retiring Greater Shepparton Secondary College Wanganui campus principal Ken Murray opened the discussion with a reflection on his 40-year career in education and a powerful quote from the legendary South African leader Nelson Mandela: "Keep your head pointing towards the sun and your feet facing forward.”

Mr Murray said there was a solution to every problem if young people faced the world with confidence and optimism.

“If there is one gift I could leave you all with, it would not be a new phone or a car - it would be the gift of optimism,” Mr Murray said.

Leaders of Tomorrow chairman and small business coach Aaron Mashano delivered a vivid image of the importance of unity and support.

“If you see a turtle in a mango tree, you know it did not get there by itself,” he said.

Joint convener of the session, Mr Perton advised young people to surround themselves with optimists.

“The world is looking for realistic and intellectually optimistic leaders - just like you,” he said.

Participants also had access to a series of video messages from national and local leaders including Member for Northern Victoria Wendy Lovell, FamilyCare's David Tennant, Notre Dame Secondary College principal John Cortese, businessman Rob Priestly and McPherson Media Group chairman Ross McPherson.

ABC news presenter Michael Rowland remembered meeting Mr Mandela in Sydney in 1990 shortly after the legendary leader was released from jail in South Africa.

“I remember many things about that meeting, his firm handshake and his beautiful smile, but I deeply and fondly remember the optimism, the hope springing from his speeches - and this from a man who had spent decades in prison,” Mr Rowland said.

Shepparton's Future Voices founder and joint convener of yesterday's summit Rashidi Sumaili said it was inspiring to see so many young people engaging with leaders.

“The summit has provided these networks and skills for young people from across the world. I am happy to see young people looking for opportunities,” Mr Sumaili said.