Revealed: Young people say family matters, not the Global Financial Crisis

Date: 01/06/2009

The Global Financial Crisis may loom large as the defining issue of 2009, but the winning entries from the Whitlam Institute's 'What Matters?' competition reveal that young people are far more concerned with equality, freedom of speech, strong and supportive relationships, and a healthy body as well as a healthy environment.

Each year, the Whitlam Institute within the University of Western Sydney holds its 'What Matters?' essay competition, inviting school students in years 5-12 to submit a 400-600 word opinion piece on the issues in society that are important to them.

The 2009 competition, proudly sponsored by Officeworks, attracted a record total of 1114 entries from students from across NSW and the ACT, on a diverse range of topics including obesity, animal cruelty, family relationships, bullying, world poverty, social responsibility, global warming, and the importance and power of the inquiring mind.

The overall winner will be announced on Thursday, June 4 2009, at a special awards ceremony at the UWS Parramatta campus, attended by former Prime Minister, The Hon. Gough Whitlam, AC QC.

Director of the Whitlam Institute, Mr Eric Sidoti, says young Australians are much more passionate and more switched on to life's big issues than they are often given credit for.

"The Whitlam Institute's 'Young People Imagining a New Democracy' project found that many young people are politically active and passionate about grassroots community movements and social causes," says Mr Sidoti.

"The entries to the 'What Matters?' competition provide further evidence that Australia's young people are compassionate, caring, and engaged with the world's most pertinent issues."

Mr Sidoti says the category winners and runners-up in the 2009 'What Matters?' competition demonstrate a thorough knowledge and understanding of a wide range of complex political, environmental and social issues.

"The 'What Matters?' finalists focused on a diverse range of issues, including the global financial crisis; world poverty; climate change; the importance of family; and the problems facing people with disabilities," says Mr Sidoti.

As part of special 'What Matters?' ceremony, competition patron Dr Hugh Mackay will present the winners of each category with a certificate signed by Mr Whitlam, as well as a cash prize of $250, courtesy of Officeworks and an invitation to attend a young writer's workshop.

As an additional prize, ActNow, an initiative of the Inspire Foundation, will also offer the year 11/12 category winner a place in their 'Cash for Comment' writing program, where they will be invited to participate in an all expenses paid two-day workshop and have the opportunity to be paid for their work.

Thanks to Officeworks, this fantastic program has had the means to go ahead, giving a voice to young students. During the ceremony, five participating schools will also be announced as the winners of $1,000 Officeworks gift cards to purchase, technology equipment, furniture, stationery or any school supplies necessary.

"Officeworks would like to congratulate the competition winners and all the entrants for getting involved and having a say about what's going on in the world around them," says Officeworks Public Relations Manager Felicia Booth.

"The 'What Matters?' competition is a unique and wonderful initiative," says Felicia. "Officeworks is proud to be supporting an initiative that allows young people to tell the world about what is important to them in a creative and thoughtful way."

All winning entries will be published on the Whitlam Institute website:

WHAT: 'What Matters?' awards ceremony
WHEN: 10:00am, Thursday June 4 2009
WHERE: Female Orphan School, UWS Parramatta campus, corner James Ruse Drive and Victoria Road

Note to the Media: Media are welcome to attend the event and take pictures and record any speeches that are made. However, Mr Whitlam will not be available for one-on-one interviews on the day and there will be no doorstop.



Media Officer

Danielle Roddick
02 9678 7086, 0414 308 701