Five young Aussie activists to inspire us on World Social Justice Day

February 16, 2024

World Day of Social Justice is celebrated each year on 20th February and the theme for 2024 is ‘Overcoming Barriers and Unleashing Opportunities for Social Justice.’ Unleashing opportunities doesn’t happen overnight. It is a process that requires creativity, wit, and determination … qualities that these five young Australians have in spades.

Most of us are familiar with the inspiring stories of Greta Thunburg and Malala Yousafazai, but within our own backyards are young Australians who have identified the inequalities and unjust systems around them. Determined to change what they saw, they have used their skills and life experiences to make a real and lasting difference.

Awer Mabil, Professional soccer player and co-founder of Barefoot to Boots, 2023 Young Australian of the Year

Mabil was born in the Kakuma refugee camp in Kenya, where he lived until he and his family settled in Adelaide when he was 10. Mabil started up the charity, Barefoot to Boots, which has donated more than two tonnes of boots, balls and uniforms to the Kakuma camp.

“Football means a lot to me but what comes first is to be a good person. It always meant a lot to me to always go back to the refugee camp where I was born to try to be there for the kids … to make the kids realise that they can make it.”
Awer Mabil

Meriem Daoui, humanitarian and marathon runner

Merium uses her love of running as a platform to do good. She ran her first marathon at age 16, raising over $5,000 for displaced Syrians affected by their country’s civil war. She most recently conquered the ‘Everest challenge’, running Tasmania’s Point-to-Pinnacle course – also known as the world’s hardest half-marathon – every day for one week. The challenge raised over $12,000 for cancer research.

“I want to give back to those who have helped me. I believe every hardship happens for a reason, I want to use my experiences to help and support others who may be going through a similar hardship.”
Meriem Daoui

Darcy McGauley-Bartlett, Advocate for Indigenous health care in prisons

Proud Gunai Kurnai man Darcy McGauley-Bartlett was instrumental in changing policy to ensure fewer Indigenous people entered the justice system and didn’t stay there if they did.  Darcy has also helped establish Victoria’s first Aboriginal Custodial Health team and the first Aboriginal Primary Health Strategy to improve health outcomes for Indigenous prisoners.

If you don’t listen, you can’t hear. And if you can’t hear, you can’t help.”
Darcy McGauley-Bartlett 

Lottie Dalziel, Founder of Banish and sustainability champion

Lottie is the founder of Banish, a website and social media account full of sustainability information, from how-to guides on composting to advice on planet-friendly food choices. Lottie also runs BRAD – the Banish Recycling and Disposal Program. People send in hard-to-recycle items, such as blister packs, and Banish uses its partnership with TerraCycle to have them recycled in Australia. The BRAD initiative recycled 11 tonnes of waste, or 150,000 products, from 11,000 households within its first 20 months.

“Communities aren’t about roles or hierarchies or internal politics. They are about coming together with a common goal and everyone playing their part, standing up and doing something.”
Lottie Dalziel

Talei Elu, Community Organiser

Talei is from the Torres Strait Islander community of Seisia in Cape York. Since returning home during the pandemic, Talei has worked with the Australian Electoral Commission to enrol and educate more Indigenous people about the importance of voting.  She also arranged for local women to receive free feminine hygiene products, baby necessities, and beauty and self-care items. She also started Seisia Sports and Rec, a free sports equipment hire initiative for youth.

“It is important to influence systems responsibly and with purposeful intention to create a future where Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders can feel safe, be heard and thrive without barriers.”
Talei Elu

On this World Day of Social Justice, may we be inspired by these young activists to open our eyes to injustice around us and to play our own, small part in creating a better world.

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