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The Nelson Mandela Youth Leadership Summit 2021

Resilience, Justice and Youth Development

Every young person – every opportunity

Young People Concluding the Summit with Optimism

Full Video of the 2021 Nelson Mandela Youth Leadership Summit

The Nelson Mandela Youth Leadership Summit 2021 was an exciting and engaging event for young people. The Summit brings together a diverse youth population from Shepparton, Regional Australia, urban Australia and Asia-Pacific to create a group of connected future leaders of the region and Australia. 

Born in Shepparton, the advent of COVID brought the Summit online and allowed us to share the 2020 summit experiences with young people and leaders spreading from New York to Africa and so too the 2021 proceedings.  Young people chose the topics, and they were designed to assist them to grow into leading community players and act on the immediate most pressing challenges. 


  • The Hon Jason Wood MPAssistant Minister for Customs, Community Safety and Multicultural Affairs, Government of Australia
  • Suzanna Sheed, MP for Shepparton, Parliament of Victoria;
  • Kathleen Lively, USA Consul General 
  • Tina PowneyDirector & Executive Manager at GALLAWAH - Empowering Change;
  • Dr Linda O’Brien AM, Pro Chancellor of Western Sydney University;
  • Dr John Bellavance, Universal Peace Federation Vice-President
  • Diana Onyonyi, Community  Advisor of Fortescue Future Industries
  • Dr Corina ModdermanLecturer and course advisor: Social Work and Social Policy at La Trobe University
  • Margaret Hepworth, CEO of  Initiatives of Change, Australia and Founder of The Gandhi Experiment
  • Victor Perton, Chief Optimism Officer, The Centre for Optimism

The Nelson Mandela Regional Youth Leadership Summit was the brainchild of Future Voices and the creation of schools and educational institutions in the Shepparton area including the Greater Shepparton Secondary CollegeGoulburn Valley GrammerShepparton Christian CollegeNotre Dame College Shepparton and La Trobe University.   In 2020 and 2021, it was fostered and supported by The Gandhi Experiment's Margaret Hepworth and The Centre for Optimism's Victor Perton.

The Centre for Optimism is a partner of the Nelson Mandela Regional Youth Leadership Summit Victoria run by Future Voices and The Gandhi Experiment.  Our COO Victor Perton has presented our classic workshop on the "How and Why of Optimism" at the first three summits.  We further support the event by providing the registration system and the 2020 and 2021 seamless zoom meeting experience.  The Gandhi Experiment's Margaret Hepworth moderates the summits.  Margaret inspires  the students, teachers and other speakers were lifted to higher levels of energy, passion and leadership by her instinctive engagement with youth.

Nick said, "I think this Summit enforced a lot of optimism that our future's in pretty good hands. It was good to hear the different perspectives from everyone, and because we all come from different places, there was lots of different optimism about different things. But I think it's pretty clear that our future's in good hands."

Abby said, "The thing that makes me optimistic is seeing what our generation can do for the future. Because the future, with all the opportunities that we've been given, like this Youth Summit, and how we will use that for our future."

Tahira said, "What makes me optimistic is my friends and family and the community of people that I surround myself with, that are also positive and optimistic and have a good eye for the future. "

Ali told us, "The thing that keeps me optimistic is that I have a belief that at the end of everything, there's hope at the end of every trouble, there is hope so with hardness comes ease. So let's say, for example, like lockdown; most of us would be in lockdown, but I still do believe that sooner or later, we will come out of it. So this is the thing that keeps me going. "

Ella said, "The thing that I see as optimistic for me is I see a brighter future for me, through all the opportunities that I've made, from people, from leaders that have allowed us to do and give us these amazing opportunities, like going to school. I can see a brighter future. "

Nicholas said, "Something that makes me optimistic is nothing in life is locked in, and everyone has equal opportunities to do what they want to do."

Sav said, "What makes me optimistic is striving to help other people not just myself, because what I want to do in my life is actually be a neurosurgeon or a psychologist, so striving to help people is what I want to do in my life."

Victoria said, "What makes me optimistic? I think that the people I'm around, like my mentors and relatives, keep me going. Sometimes if I feel a bit down, I think it's just great to have someone by your side.

Haley said, "I'm optimistic for the future because whilst things, like right now they're not the greatest and it's hard to be optimistic about them, but eventually, this will be over. We'lL all be off in the real world and able to do whatever we want really. "

Diana said, "I'm optimistic about people, and I'm optimistic about this generation that's coming after us. I feel like generations keep becoming better and better. And everyone, each generation is becoming kinder and more compassionate. So yeah, people make me optimistic, and the fact that we're becoming more kind and compassionate with each other.

Ella said, "What makes me optimistic, I think, from trying my best and being around everyone inspires me a lot. And I learn so much from everyone, like my brother and my dad and mom and my teachers.

Jeff said, "What makes me optimistic is just seeing the light at the end of the tunnel, knowing that there's always a way out of this, and also seeing today how many people are working towards a better future for everyone.

Amelia told us, "My community makes me optimistic, watching the passion that different members and corners of my school community, my town and my global community. Everyone's passionate about something different. Everything, different things give people reasons to wake up in the morning, and I just really love seeing that and finding those things for myself, as well."

The Hon Jason Wood MP 
Assistant Minister for Customs, Community Safety and Multicultural Affairs

"Optimism is so important at the moment. And to you young people here today, you're our future."

"As a young teenager myself many years ago, I knew of Nelson Mandela as an amazing person who was reported around the world on the news as having been incarcerated for standing up against the apartheid regime."

Suzanna Sheed MP

"And I think for all people who are aspiring to leadership who think about leadership, who want to change something who have maybe one goal or many goals in relation to change, I want to tell you that it's possible to do it and that you should be absolutely optimistic about it."

Tina Powney

"My experiences taught me the need for connection; being heard and understood, understood, begins to restore hope for a better future. Young people are our future. This summit is an opportunity for us to listen to each other, to hear the voice of our own hurting child within and finding a creative way to turn our pain into healing, to allow healing, to make a difference for ourselves and our family, our community, and the world we live in."

US Consul General Kathleen Lively

School student Sarah asked, "The USA and Australia have put a lot of effort into Afghanistan. How do you deal with the community disappointment at what has happened with the #Taliban takeover?" Kathleen told her, "I served in Afghanistan 12 years ago. Now, I think dealing with the disappointment, it goes back to what I was talking about in terms of complexity and how difficult diplomacy is. I think there's a lot of good that has come out of what has happened both ib what Australia contributed and in the United States contributed in Afghanistan. I've seen some of that good myself. And I think that we have to keep committed to making sure we continue to help. And I know that frankly, both the United States and Australia are committed to that."

The Australian Governor General at the 2020 Nelson Mandela Youth Leadership Summit

"I'm an optimist by nature. So when I was going through my career, learning, as you do as a young officer, and then growing up and progressing through the ranks, I'm looking for the positive in situations. I'm looking for the positive in people."

Speaking to students in an extra session of The Nelson Mandela Youth Leadership  Summit sponsored by The Centre forOptimism in December 2020, The Governor-General and Mrs Linda Hurley made everyone feel like royalty.  The Governor General said, "I will say what I got to say now, not because I'm dealing with the Center for Optimism. I have said it in many, many, many of my speeches as Governor-General and as Governor of New South Wales, that I'm an optimist by nature.

Video of the 2020 Nelson Mandela Youth Leadership Summit

The Third Nelson Mandela Youth Leadership Summit 2020 was  an exciting and engaging event for young and old alike .

Due to COVID-19 restrictions in the usual venue city of Shepparton, the event was online and open to young and old alike globally.  Shorter speeches, break-outs for the participants to share their reflections, and sufficient time for Q&A and student replies made for a superb event.

Leadership Messages for the Summiteers

Marthinus Van Schalkwyk

Michael Rowland

Aaron Mashano

Leon Logothetis

Ananda, Camilla and Michael Bartura

Larissa Falla

Seema Abdullah

Chester Elton

Andrew Crisp

Steve Gross

John Cortese

Ross McPherson

Matthew Walker

Elizabeth Capp

Natalie Foeng

Jenny Boymal

David Stannard

Dr Apollo Nsubuga Kyobe

Wendy Lovell

Rebecca Woolstencroft

Rob Priestly

Luke Kerr

David Tennant

Noirin Mosley

Geoff Dobson

Michael Burge OAM

Quotable Quotes

Nelson Mandela

"I am fundamentally an optimist. Whether that comes from nature or nurture, I cannot say. Part of being optimistic is keeping one’s head pointed towards the sun, one’s feet moving forward."

USA Consul-General Michael Kleine

"With regard to optimism, I think about Viktor Frankl, who survived Nazi concentration camps in large part by choosing to be optimistic. As he wrote in his classic work, Man’s Search for Meaning, “Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms – to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.” If Dr. Frankl could remain optimistic through what he experienced, there’s no reason why we all can’t choose to be optimistic as well. It’s how we all find meaning in life, and makes us better individually and as members of the wider community."

Rashidi Sumaili

"What makes an optimist is the understanding that there’s not a permanent problem or enemy in one’s life. I am an optimist and dream positively with conviction and focus on the feeling of hope that strengthens my physical, emotional and spiritual wellbeing."

Margaret Hepworth

"Optimism and hope are crucial elements in shifting us, especially our young people, from a place of overwhelm and despair to a place of positive and mindful action."

Participants, Partners and Sponsors

Future Voices

The Nelson Mandela Learning Project

The Gandhi Experiment:  is not about the man himself, it is about the essence of his message:  Non-violence as a conscious choice; Satyagraha, my truth or soul-force; and getting off our backsides to take action about those things we know need to change. Where ‘hope in action’ and ‘moving from apathy to action’ become our maxims.

Symphony 7:  Symphony 7's mission is to positively impact the lives of more than 1billion people by 2030.

The Centre for Optimism: We ask "what makes you optimistic?" amd foster "realistic and infectiously optimistic leadership.

The Honourable Wendy Lovell

Why Come?  Young People told us Why!


  • Mr. Rashidi Sumaili, CEO of Future Voices. Inc. and the Shepparton Nelson Mandela Learning Centre Australia Project. +61 422 347 237
  • Victor Perton, COO of The Centre for Optimism +61 417 217 241

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