Enactus UNE is part of an international movement of students who engage with community groups to run projects and add local value while they study. Getting involved in these projects can help you ground your skills while you study, while developing professional and other networks to enhance your University experience and career prospects. As an example, one of the UNE Enactus projects started about eight years ago, with a financial literacy skills program at the Minimbah Indigenous Pre & Primary school in Armidale. As a result of this program in recent years we found that many of the children were restricted from opening bank accounts because they did not have a birth certificate.
Further research revealed that this is not simply a local problem, and that in Australia, 41% of babies born to Aboriginal mothers go unregistered and therefore never receive a birth certificate. A birth certificate offers a legal identity. It also allows access to everyday rights and mainstream services, such as obtaining a driver’s licence, opening bank accounts, applying for a passport, joining a sporting team, and even obtaining work.
In response to this need, over the past two years UNE Students have partnered with others to raise about $20,000, in order to pay for nearly 400 kids to obtain birth certificates in local schools. This effectively gives them Australian ‘citizenship’, and enables them to fully participate in services which most of us take for granted. This project has been so successful over the past 18 months that this year in June we plan to sign up a further 800 kids through our regions local schools. We welcome anyone who would like to be involved in this exciting initiative!
But wait, there’s more! In keeping with acting locally, but thinking more globally about the causes of this injustice, we have recently started a national campaign for every child born in Australia (approximately 300,000 each year) to obtain free and automatic birth certificates as a fundamental right of citizenship. With this aim firmly in mind, in February this year Enactus UNE students and a local New England Mutual Group representative travelled to Parliament House in Canberra, to meet politicians and raise the issue of non-registration and birth certification of Australian kids.
We received amazing offers of support from both sides of Parliament during this visit, meeting with senior Government Ministers and their counterparts, who are now working at finding administrative and legal solutions to the problem. Over a couple of weeks the story was covered widely through national TV, radio and print media. As a consequence of this coverage we have had further interest from an international company, who is trying to address child slavery issues in parts of West Africa, caused in part by kids not having birth certificates in this part of the world.
So, would you like to get involved? Are you interested to learn how to effectively campaign? Would you like to build professional networks and skills while you study? How about meeting politicians, and playing a part in bringing about lasting positive social change while you’re at UNE?
If you say ‘yes’ to any of these, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. You won’t be disappointed!