Young Vincentians take a lead role
The St Vincent de Paul Society is delighted to introduce Kate Barton and Emily Wardeiner as its Deputy National Youth Representatives. Kate and Emily were appointed to their roles by the St Vincent de Paul Society’s National Council Vice President, Youth & Young Adults Representative, Cathryn Moore, in March. Kate and Emily will both have their profile featured in The Record.
As a dedicated young Vincentian of many years standing, Kate Barton, of Canberra, is excited to take part in the inaugural Emerging Young Vincentian Leaders Program when it commences in spring 2018.
Kate will take a lead role in the implementation of the program. Ten young people from around Australia have been selected for the 18-month program, which will be conducted primarily online but also includes three face-to-face meetings.
‘There has been a huge investment from the Society’s National Council, which has been really special. The Emerging Young Vincentian Leaders Program is one way the Society is giving back to youth and young members,’ Kate said.
‘It will cover Vincentian training, including change management and directorship training. It is targeting youth and equipping them with the skills necessary to sit on boards.’
Kate is relishing the strategic nature of her new role following many years of hands-on volunteering running children’s camps. The third-year law student at the Australian National University first became involved in the Society when she was a year 11 student attending St Clare’s College Canberra, when young Vincentians spoke to her class and she signed up to be a volunteer on a camp.
She was also a member of the Society’s Territory Council of Canberra-Goulburn board from 2013 to 2017 and is currently a member of the St Joseph’s the Carpenter Conference in Canberra. St Joe’s, as it is affectionately known, is a youth conference.
Kate’s efforts were recognised when she received the Individual Community Service Award at the ACT Government’s Young Canberra Citizen of the Year Awards in March 2017 and the Volunteering and Contact ACT’s Young Volunteer of the Year in 2017.
‘My interests are youth issues and young people facing disadvantage. I’ve really enjoyed the opportunities I’ve been given by the Society. I’ve been lucky that I’ve been allowed to continue in more of a strategic leadership capacity. The values of the Society are very important to me,’ Kate said.
‘To see how far the Society reaches is really phenomenal. Obviously, it reaches far and wide in Australia but also around the world.’
It is clear Kate has immense respect for those volunteers involved in children’s camps when she talks about how they deal with the confronting issues that arise on camps, particularly working with 40-odd children who have often experienced trauma and display challenging behaviours.
‘Nothing prepares you for camp. It is really full on and it’s true, you get very little sleep.’
This aspect of the camps is an important one but can sometimes be overlooked. The way youth members give of themselves during these camps should not be underestimated and it is something older Vincentians may be familiar with in the role of home visitation. This is where the volunteers’ conferences can help—in sharing and de-briefing with their members.
During her time with the Society, Kate believes young volunteers and their older counterparts have developed greater understanding of each other’s roles and how they are evolving.
‘I’ve been very pleased to see a shift in the way youth have been treated in the Society. Young people are no longer being valued just for being youth representatives but also for the other skills they can bring to the Society,’ she said.
Kate, along with the National Youth Team, has great hopes for the Emerging Young Vincentian Leaders Program and the other programs they are working on. The team meets twice a year and has decided to hold the meetings in capital cities, so they can learn more about locally-based programs. Most recently they met in Darwin in May and in Perth last October and prior to this, meetings were held at the National Council office in Canberra.
Outside of the Society, Kate is a swim teacher, plays netball and has a keen interest in travel and theatre. Most recently, in her spare time Kate produced the staging of the Oscar Wilde play, The importance of being Earnest at ANU. She also went on exchange to Norway last year where she studied at the University of Oslo between July and November. Following this Kate went backpacking with her sister in Europe for two months.
‘I absolutely loved it. Scandinavia piqued my interest because it is very different to Australia in terms of the landscape and the people. It also helped that a lot of Norwegians speak English, so that made it a very easy place to study and live.’
It was Kate’s third trip to Europe and when she completes her university studies in the middle of next year she plans to go to South America before commencing her law career.
The opportunity to share her expanding knowledge of Indigenous culture with other Vincentians inspired Victorian teacher Emily Wardeiner to take on the position of a Deputy National Youth Representative on the Society’s National Youth Team.
Through her role, Emily aims to raise the profile of the annual National Immersion Program, which she said had a dramatic impact on her life when she attended in 2012. The intensive two-week program sees St Vincent de Paul Society volunteers and members aged from 18 to 79 live in the remote Indigenous community of Nganmarriyanga (Palumpa), in the far north-west of the Northern Territory.
Emily said through the immersion program participants experience what it is like to live in a remote community and gain a better understanding of what it means to be Indigenous in Australia today. Following her immersion experience in Nganmarriyanga, Emily spent a couple of years teaching in the Indigenous community of Wadeye.
‘I was lucky enough to learn some of the language, largely due to the fact it was a bilingual school and I was working alongside the teachers and community members. I’m still in contact with families in that community today,’ Emily said.
Prior to this, Emily’s father owned the pub in Tennant Creek and during that time she was able to do teaching placements at nearby Indigenous communities.
‘I’ve been very blessed with what I have learned while in these communities. My goal for my time on the National Youth Team is to not only lift the profile of the National Immersion Program but also to build awareness throughout the Society about Indigenous culture,’ she said.
It is Emily’s first time on the National Youth Team and she met with fellow youth team members in Darwin in May. It was a meeting that Emily helped organise and, given her contacts in the Northern Territory, she was able to connect the team with people from Indigenous communities.
‘We wanted to give the youth team a deeper cultural understanding for people wanting to know more about Indigenous culture in the Northern Territory,’ Emily said.
Emily now teaches at St Augustine’s in the Melbourne inner-west suburb of Yarraville, where she has taught Physical Education and in the classroom for the past two years. To assist the school, Emily also took on the position of Prep teacher for the first two terms of 2018.
Emily believes her interest in Indigenous issues works across many facets of her life; for example, she has shared her immersion experience with her students in Melbourne and recently helped them to understand the importance of Reconciliation Week.
It was in 2002 when she was completing her Bachelor of Education at the Australian Catholic University (ACU) in her hometown of Ballarat that Emily first joined the Society’s Youth Conference at the university.
‘I wasn’t actually Catholic before joining the Conference and that began my journey to Catholicism,’ she said.
Emily received her sacraments in 2003 and she credits the Society as having played a large role in her spiritual journey.
While she has wound up some of her commitments for the Society in Victoria, which included sitting on the state youth team and the overseas development team, Emily remains Vice-President of the Roadshow Special Works for the Society. She also spent four years as the North Western Central Council Representative while attending university and assisted the Western Region in a similar manner.
Emily has volunteered with children’s camps since 2002 and first became involved in the Roadshow Special Works in 2003. The Roadshow Conference meets monthly at the ACU campus in Fitzroy, Melbourne and they organise youth days in three regional centres in Victoria over the July school holidays.
‘The Roadshow ties in well with the teaching year and it’s great to connect with regional high schools and hopefully interest some young members to join. This helps us to gain momentum in youth conferences,’ Emily said.
Hockey has been a part of Emily’s life since she was a child and she has represented Victoria in the State women’s hockey team several times. She is a goal keeper and currently competes in the Premier League Hockey Competition in Victoria. A gruelling training schedule sees Emily travel to Geelong twice a week for training, where she stays with her grandmother.
Emily is clearly someone who thrives on keeping busy and giving back to her community. This year she embarked on a Masters of Social Work with Deakin University and has a strong interest in working in the policy field in the future.
‘I’m not sure what that will look like at the moment but it could potentially involve policy work in the education and/or Indigenous areas. There are so many youth issues I am interested in but the stand-out ones would be employment and access to education for all,’ Emily said.
Although, she was interested in social justice issues before joining the Society, Emily believes she has learned a lot more since becoming a conference member, which has put her in touch with ‘like-minded people’ and enabled her to ‘give a voice to the voiceless’ through her words and actions.
‘Coming from a country lifestyle to now being able to act on the injustices I see has been very important to me. Having the support of my family and friends has enabled me to take on leadership roles and to have a balanced life,’ Emily said.