By Temilope Deji-Ojo, Bachelor of Medical Sciences
When I read GLP Advisor, Francis Ventura’s email saying a spot had opened for me to attend the Social Good Summit Australia (SGSA), I was wary. A full day in the city, with people I didn’t know, for a purpose I didn’t yet understand. Why would I choose to attend that? To this day, I have no idea, but I am beyond grateful for the opportunity.
An invisible force propelled me onward as my bus and train arrived late and I frantically hurried into the NIDA building. I still wondered why I was doing this as I grabbed my nametag, smiling that they had spelt my name correctly.
The minute the host - Andrew Klein - stepped onto the stage and began speaking, my trepidation evaporated. His excitement and that of the other audience members began to rub off on me. The purpose of the SGSA is to create more awareness about the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and inspire others to do their part in improving our world, and I certainly came away inspired. The big question was: What type of world do you want to live in by 2030? There were multiple speakers from all walks of life whose works focused on the SDGs. Mainly SDG 5, Gender equality; SDG 9, Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure; SDG 10, Reduced Inequalities; and SDG 12, Responsible Consumption and Production. The first speaker, a co-founder of the SGSA - Catia Davim - highlighted the disparities between the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) and the reality of how humans are treated today. I genuinely don’t believe that I had ever read the UDHR before then, and as she quoted it, it was painful to compare it with my experiences as a human being fully deserving of those rights.
Listening to Manal Al-Sharif describe how she was imprisoned for “driving while female” in Saudi Arabia was mind-blowing. Directly against the UDHR, discriminating against her because of her sex, we could already see the disparities Catia spoke of coming to light.
Professor Veena Sahajwalla, an educator at UNSW, and 2022 Australian of the Year discovered a way to turn waste into green materials. The possibility of converting so much of our waste into useful products like textiles to use in building changes the scope of recycling and responsible production.
When Guy Brent, MD of Woolworths walked onto the stage, the person next to me groaned audibly. Not a Woolies fan I gathered. However, as he walked off the stage, she was applauding with vigour. The Woolworths food group has so many aims in line with the SDGs for example, to be plastic-free in their produce section by 2030 and to reduce their carbon footprint and run on clean energy by 2050.
Finally, my favourite speaker of the day was Nasir Sobhani, The Street’s Barber. As he spoke, tears leaked from my eyes, and I noticed the person sitting next to me wiping away hers as well. After his stay in a rehab facility, Nasir decided to focus on his passion, which is haircutting. He works on the belief that his passion is his purpose. And his purpose is to ‘share the voice of the unheard’ by giving them free haircuts and sharing their stories in Melbourne’s streets.
The day passed in a blur of inspirational people and companies, and delicious free food, and there were more speakers than those I mentioned, but hopefully, you can start thinking about the kind of world you want to live in by 2030. My biggest takeaway from the SGSA is that all I need to do is focus on my passion and turn it into a purpose. All the speakers I mentioned are doing the exact same thing. From Andrew Klein using his talent to encourage the audience to Nasir Sobhani giving free haircuts.
There needs to be a significant change in the next eight years for the world to achieve the SDGs. It’s time for us to move past the regret of humanity’s past climate action and focus on its future. As Francis himself says, ‘Don’t be sorry, be better.’
By 2030, I would like to live in a world where most people are using their talent and passion to improve it, whether by joining Professor Sahajwalla’s team and doing more research on sustainable production or volunteering their time and efforts towards spreading more awareness of the SDGs like the volunteers at the SGSA.