The National Student Leadership Forum (NSLF) was held this year from the 15th – 18th of September in Canberra. SYA delegates have been participating in this annual event for the last 5 years and this year sent three delegates, Sarbjoth Kaur Veriah, Navjeet Kaur Randhawa and Amrinder Singh Ghuman to attend.
Here is an article from Sarbjoth and Navjeet who have shared their experiences.
The day started bright and early as we embarked on our journey from Melbourne to Canberra. We spent our time on the flight reading up on the SYA strategic plan and scouting for other possible delegates attending the conference.
As we arrived at the Hyatt Canberra to the buzz of the 280 people registering for the forum, we realised what an exciting few days we had ahead of us.
The three of us were put into separate groups consisting of six delegates, two facilitators and an assistant facilitator. Little did we know that we would spend quality time opening up and sharing our experiences and inner thoughts with these people over our days together.
The afternoon of the first day consisted of viewing question time at Parliament House, followed by a personal address by the leader of the Opposition, Tony Abbott. We had the opportunity to ask and engage in questions which gave insight into his upbringing and faith and values as a leader of Australia. A presentation by Peter Garrett followed on and we concluded with having an hour with a member of parliament in our small groups which allowed personal and honest discussions regarding the influences which have formed their values and about their personal life experiences.
A politician, a Rabbi and a Sheik walk into a room. No, this is not the opening line of a joke. In fact, these are the speakers who addressed us as we ate dinner in the Grand Ballroom of Parliament House. Mr Scott Morrison MP introduced the keynote speakers Rabbi Zalman Kastel and Sheik Ahmad Abu Ghazaleh, who work with each other for an organisation called “Together for Humanity”. An inspiring duo, these speakers demonstrate that we can transcend psychological barriers such as race and religion to work together for the greater good of the community.
The second day of NSLF was one of the most humbling experiences of our lives. During breakfast, one of our fellow delegates was asked to tell us his story. He was a young Afghani man who had come to Australia as a refugee.
He told us of his experience in Afghanistan under the rule and influence of the Taliban and Al Q’aida, and about his time spent in a detention centre in Australia. We then moved on to the Australian War Memorial, where we stood around the Pool of Reflection and listened to an emotionally charged commemoration service honouring the soldiers who fought and sacrificed their lives so that Australia could be what it is today. After paying our respects and laying silk poppies on the grave in the Tomb of The Unknown Soldier, we walked along Anzac Parade and passed more memorials to the various wars that Australian soldiers have served in.
The afternoon was filled with fun and games as all the groups took part in the Forum Sports Fest. A variety of games including volleyball, soccer, oz tag, dodgeball and ultimate Frisbee gave the groups time to interact and unwind from the emotionally charged day. Team 10, which Navjeet was a part of, emerged as the champions of the day!
Dinner was hosted at the Hyatt, where we listened to speaker Brian Egan, founder of the organisation ‘Aussie Helpers’ share his journey battling through depression and trying to survive as a farmer during the droughts that crippled our nation. Hearing about his emotional strength to help not only himself but other farmers was a moving experience for us, with many teary eyes in the room.
The third day included performing community service around Canberra.
Our groups participated in cleaning up community areas by removing rubbish and graffiti removal as well as performing “random acts of kindness”. We were given a budget of $40 and decided to buy some chocolates and visit a nearby Hospice. We gave chocolates to the nurses who were working, thanking them for their hard work and letting them know that the community really does appreciate the difficult jobs that they do. The teamwork and willingness of all who participated was in fact an overwhelming experience for us. Servant leadership was perfectly demonstrated by us in this task and the rewards were for everyone.
Our last night at NSLF saw everyone donning their best country attire to suit the theme of “Outlawed”. Cowboys (and girls), prisoners, saloon girls and Sheriffs milled around the grandiose Albert Hall, which had been transformed into a barn for a barn dance, complete with a live band playing country classics. Everyone got into the spirit of the evening, line-dancing and square-dancing and bush-dancing the night away.
The final day had some motivational concluding moments which summed up our potential as leaders and that the journey was only just beginning. We farewelled our new found friends and facilitators as we left Canberra for home that afternoon. We took away some important messages including the idea that faith may be personal, but the impacts are social. We were encouraged to explore whether we were living a life worthy of the sacrifice of the soldiers who had their lives taken while fighting for our freedom.
We both experienced a deep level of inspiration and lots of thought provoking moments about our faith and values, and how they influence our ability to be leaders within our community. We had an incredible time at the forum, and look forward to seeing other Sikh youth take on and benefit from the opportunities offered by NSLF.
"This experience to attend the National Student Leadership Forum was a great exposure to a variety of youths from different backgrounds, which brought out some in depths and engaging discussions regarding our faith and values and how we demonstrate them within the Australian community. It was a sincerely humbling experience to learn and hear Australian leaders display servant leadership, which reaps results of unity and fulfilment. I personally have come away with a burst of energy and motivation to get more involved in community projects and promote leadership of Sikh’s in the Australian community".
Sarabjoth, an attendee of the National Student Leadership Forum.