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One of the joys of growing up in WA is it's a very flat part of
Australia. Everyone's accessible, even people who are CEOs; you
know them by their first name or their nickname. The principal
at my school always seemed to have a never-ending supply of
answers, so the next morning I went to his office and told him
what had happened. I said I want to fix it, how do I fix it?
He told me about a food drive where we could collect cans,
make a contribution and help feed people.
We did that for a whole semester. It was a moment where
you thought, 'Wow, there's a problem and there's something
I'm capable of doing about it.' That was amplified again when
I was 15. I went on this youth leadership program with these
unbelievable 14 and 15-year-olds who are volunteer firefighters,
running youth advisory councils, just driving impact left, right,
and centre. At no point does someone magically come over and
dangle leadership keys in front of you and say, "Now you're in
charge, go do it." You're capable of having influence and driving
change at any point and wherever you are.
PW: You were asked to chair the Youth Summit at the G20. What
were your expectations and how did it work out?
HR: It's an interesting one to be given because when you first
get the phone call, it's: "Can you volunteer four hours a week
and can you organise a conference for 100-120 young leaders
from around the world?" One thing that struck me, despite the
fact young people have been at the table since the dawn of the
G20, was why I couldn't see evidence of that? Why wasn't there
anything other than young people flashing peace signs in photos
with world leaders?
I had zero experience in government relations when I started
this role. I quit my job in Perth, I moved to Melbourne, and I
decided to go full-time into the volunteer capacity. The goal
at that point became can we be the first youth summit in the
history of the G20 to successfully influence a world leader's
It was a really interesting year navigating the domestic and
international political landscapes. We managed to get strong
support from Obama, UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon,
Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi, a whole bunch of
international leaders -- which ultimately helped in ensuring
that every country's growth and action plan wasn't signed off
without specific youth employment measures.
It was an unbelievable effort across 25 countries that did that.
PW: What did you learn from that experience?
HR: Understanding how important it was to be evidence based.
We partnered with the OECD and with the World Bank to give
us access to numbers. We're saying here's the evidence, why
this matters, and here's what this means if you re-engage young
people, and here's what this means if you don't.
Then we had to deal with an Australian prime minister who
refused to meet with us. We became the first nation hosting a
G20 where the leader of the government hosting didn't meet
with young people. When you're trying to communicate across
25 countries, and the home team captain won't come in and bat
for you, that's hard.
On the plus side, we devoted a day at our summit to training
in advocacy for all of our young leaders, so they could go back
and lobby their governments and mobilise young people to get in
front of their ministers.
I realised the importance of those relationships and taking
that broader approach; understanding it's not just about you and
your issues, it's about how you can work in conjunction with one
another. That was absolutely critical to our success.
PW: Many were intrigued that you had a chat with Barack Obama.
Did you seek advice from each other?
HR: I watched other, senior Australians talking to him who were
quite tongue-tied. But, he's so engaging and easy to talk to. He'd
followed our work closely and was a huge supporter. He'd given
an address at the University of Queensland the day before that
was heavily focused on encouraging young people to lead and
we spoke about that. He wanted to hear all about my business
and talk about female entrepreneurship because, having two
daughters, he's particularly passionate about that. He was saying
how much more needs to be done to support women into »
Clockwise from top left: Holly Ransom with Barack Obama; at Y20 summit, with Governor General Quentin Bryce; at a microfinance project in Kenya.
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