Young voice, big ideas

A former Newhaven College student has begun a journey that has already included addressing an event on nuclear disarmament at the United Nations, writes Shane Green.

Emily Anthony has never been fazed by public speaking. Since she was a child, the former Newhaven College captain always felt confident before a crowd.

But on this particular day when she got to her feet, Emily felt an unaccustomed nervousness.

There was good reason. At only 19, Emily was about to address an event at the United Nations General Assembly, speaking about nuclear disarmament.

She was sitting next to a woman who’d been nominated for several Nobel Peace prizes. Then there were the UN ambassadors and representatives of NGOs. The next youngest people were in their late 20s, and there were people in their 80s who had devoted their lives to the cause of disarmament.

‘I just felt very small and it was very humbling,’ says Emily. ‘It was a very proud moment. It was just incredible.’

The event she addressed was held in the lead up to the vote on Resolution L41, to convene negotiations to prohibit nuclear weapons. The resolution was carried 123 to 38.

Emily spoke on nuclear disarmament from the perspective of youth, and the next day, was involved in lobbying countries.

Last year, Emily was one of only five people chosen to take part in a program run by the Japan-based Peace Boat organisation, that works to promote peace and human rights.

The group works to achieve its aims by chartering a passenger ship that travels the world on peace voyages. Emily was chosen for the Peace Boat’s Global University project, taking part in a program called Changing the Approach: humanitarian disarmament, international law, and the United Nations.

To be selected, she had to write an 800-word essay on issues in the international community of her choice – her case, the Timor-Leste crisis and subsequent international intervention.

The program ran on a voyage of the Peace Boat from Amsterdam to New York, working with academics and representatives of NGOs.

Her fellow travelers also included Japanese university students and Japanese survivors of the 1945 atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, known as Hibakusha.

At each port, the Hibakusha give their testimony, designed to inform and educate people of the dangers of a nuclear world.

She heard her first testimony on the second day of the program, and it was an emotional experience.

‘From then on, every single testimony I heard, you’re moved to tears every time. Every person is different and that reflects in each person’s perspectives and recollection.’

Emily was the youngest on board –  the next youngest was a 26-year-old lawyer from Norway.

She remembers the nerves as she flew from Melbourne – the first time she had travelled by herself.

‘At first, I said I’m just going to sit here and absorb everything,’ says Emily. ‘That’s what I did. But I never imagined that I would have been the one at the end that was presenting at the UN.

‘I’ve made friends that will last a lifetime and there were just so supportive. Everyone was really excited to see that there was a young face there, too.’

At one point, the ship was joined by the grandson of President Harry Truman, who ordered the dropping of the atomic bombs.

Clifton Truman Daniel is on the board of the Truman Library, and works on facilitating reconciliation between states, including Japan and the United States. ‘It was really great to meet him,’ says Emily.

Emily has returned to her studies at the University of Melbourne, where she is doing a double major in International Politics and History, as well as a Diploma of Languages in Japanese.

She is working out what will follow, but –  not surprisingly – an international focus seems likely.

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