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Inspiring stories star at Festival of Change

Published:31 July 2018

CQUni's inaugural Festival of Change launched with a keynote presentation from ygap CEO Manita Ray and social entrepreneur Hao Teo, pictured with CQUni Director of Social Innovation Lara Carton.

Hundreds of students and staff have attended CQUni's inaugural Festival of Change, and heard inspiring stories of getting started making social change.

The week-long celebration of social innovation took in nine campuses, and showcased projects and initiatives from students, staff, academics, alumni and stakeholders who are making a difference.

At the launch event hosted from Melbourne campus on Monday 30 July, the opening session was beamed to gatherings across all participating campuses.

Participants heard from international development not-for-profit ygap CEO Manita Ray, and young local social entrepreneur Hao Teo of Dibs.it.

Ms Ray explained that since 2011, ygap has funded nearly 400 local entrepreneurs across four continents – to progress their business solutions for local problems in poor and disadvantaged communities.

"We know there are problems out there, but we never try to impose our ideas about how to solve them - only local leaders have what it takes to affect real impact and change," Manita said.

Manita said she'd been inspired to pursue a career in social change due to the poverty her family experienced when she was a child in Kolkata in India, but that everyone could take a stand against injustice and inequality in their communities.

"We often hear people asked what they're passionate about - I ask, what are you angry about! Find out what makes you really angry in the society around you, and then you've got the motivation to go for it!"

More inspiration for getting started came from Orange Sky Australia (OSA) co-founders and 2016 Young Australians of the Year Nic Marchesi and Lucas Patchett, who presented from Townsville campus on Wednesday 1 August.

The keynote session, which was shared live across participating campuses and on video link for staff and students to access remotely, explained how the two young men fitted a van with a washing machine and dryer, and began outreach to homeless people in Brisbane.

"Our first-ever month of operation, we were lucky enough to receive over 2,500 unique donations from around the world, and in that first month we washed and dried over 300 homeless friends clothes for free," Lucas explained.

But it was when they started making personal connections with homeless people, they realised the greater power of their work - that it gave homeless people a chance to build relationships. “Never underestimate the power of awesome conversations,” Nic told the audience.

Earlier this year, CQUniversity signed on to partner OSA in Townsville, sponsoring its mobile laundry and shower service in the Northern Queensland hub.

Wednesday also saw Rockhampton North campus host a Loneliness Forum for staff, students and community, sharing research as part of the innovative Rockhampton Loneliness Project to tackle social isolation in the community.

The Festival of Change also featured a series of "Finding Your Purpose" workshops presented by the Foundation for Young Australians' YLab, across Melbourne, Sydney, Mackay, Townsville and Bundaberg.

With strong interest across the campuses, students enjoyed exploring 'purpose' meant to their future careers, and lives, as they developed ways to pursue social change and personal aspirations.

Student Change Champs across the campuses also led workshops dedicated to the #thinkaboutit social awareness campaign, and to exploring iChange, CQUni's new social innovation orientation program, as well as Changemaker Marketplaces showcasing local social enterprises and volunteer opportunities for students.

With all events free, and plenty of hospitality from local campuses, the Festival of Change attracted more than 400 participants throughout the week.

Festival coordinator and Social Innovation Program Manager Ashley Clarke said the buzz around the first-time event had been exciting.

"The Office of Social Innovation has been gradually building our opportunities and initiatives for students to get involved as changemakers, and the Festival of Change really brought all of those together," Ashley said.

"Students were pretty blown away by the options available to them, whether that's putting a team in The Big Idea, or going on a CQUGlobal experience, or just getting some clarity around their own goals through a workshop or iChange."

"We know CQUni students want to be part of the solution for their communities, and the Festival of Change has helped them see the myriad of ways that's possible."