The Nelson Mandela Youth Leadership Summit 2023

Young People Creating the Positive Leadership the World Needs

The Nelson Mandela Youth Leadership Summit 2023 on 28 July at the Parliament House in Melbourne promises to be an exciting and engaging event. 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 COVID lockdowns took the Summit online and allowed us to share the 2020 and 2021 summit experiences with young people and leaders spreading from New York to Africa.  Young people chose the topics, and they were designed to assist them in growing into leading community players and act on the immediate most pressing challenges. 

In 2022, the historic Legislative Assembly Chamber of the Victorian Parliament in Melbourne allowed the young leaders to experience speaking in the chamber used by the Australian Parliament before the construction of Canberra's Houses of Parliament and still in use by the Victorian Parliament.  In 2023 we will make use of the same majestic building to provide the platform the for the young leaders.

Our confirmed 2023 speakers will be led by the Lord Mayor of Melbourne, Sally Capp AO, the Leader of the Opposition, John Pesutto MP, and representing the Premier, Daniela De Martino MP with Nazer Nazir of the Afghan Australia Initiative, Tané Hunter, Cofounder Future Crunch and Mason Interlandi of DFAT.

We will commence in the Chamber at 9.45 am on 28 July and conclude at 2 pm.  

Draft Agenda: Details to Come

  • 9.45 Introductions and Acknowledgement of Country with Rashidi Sumaili and Margaret Hepworth.


  • 10 am Lord Mayor of Melbourne, Sally Capp AO leads the conversation

  • 10.20 am Leader of the Opposition, John Pesutto MP leads the conversation
  • Morning Tea
  • 10.40 am Daniela De Martino MP representing the Premier leads the conversation
  • Morning Tea with St Paul's Lutheran Church Choir 
  • 11.30 am Nazer Nazir, Afghan Australia Initiative leads the conversation
  • 11.45 am Mason Interlandi, Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade leads the conversation


  • 12 pm The Future: Tané Hunter, Cofounder Future Crunch, leads the conversation

  • Youth Participants on their Optimism , Hope and the Future
  • 1 pm Lunch in the Parliament's Queen's Hall including St Paul's Lutheran Church Choir 
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"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." 

Nelson Mandela

A Short History of the Summit 

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.

Coming out of the COVID lockdown and restrictions, the 2022 Summit was held in Melbourne with 90 vibrant students on the floor of the Parliament's Chamber and seven brilliant keynote speakers stimulating the conversation.

The Centre for Optimism is a partner and sponsor of the Nelson Mandela Regional Youth Leadership Summit Victoria with Future VoicesThe Gandhi Experiment and the Gallawah Foundation .  Our COO Victor Perton has presented our classic workshop on the "How and Why of Optimism" at all four 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 and Victor Perton moderated the summits.  Margaret inspires the students, teachers and other speakers who were lifted to higher levels of energy, passion and leadership through her instinctive engagement with youth.

The 2022 Summit Proceedings

Welcome: Hussein Sumaili

How we operate today: Margaret Hepworth

Acknowledgement of Country: Ted Perton

“What would Mandela say to us today?”
Speaker: Steve Rametse
Speaker-Chair: Ted Perton

“What is Leadership for the 2020s and Beyond?”
Speaker: Ambassador Vasyl Myroshnychenko
Speaker-Chair: Sophie Woolstencroft

Leadership for Today:
Speaker: USA Consul General Kathleen Lively
Speaker-Chair: Sherry-Rose Bih Watts

African Lutheran Choir

“We all have our mountain to climb... “
Speaker: Daniel Bull
Speaker-Chair: Sione Atu

The Climate
Speaker: Amanda Wendt
Speaker-Chair: Xavier Schmedje

Water for the next 50 years?
Speaker: Lara Olsen
Speaker-Chair: Layla O’Callaghan

The Future: Youth Participants on Optimism and Hope
Introduction: Victor Perton

Lunch in the Parliament's Queen's Hall
African Lutheran Choir sings in Queen’s Hall

2022 participants came from: Greater Shepparton Secondary College; Goulburn Valley Grammar; Melbourne Girls College; Melbourne Girls Grammar School; Melbourne Grammar School; Princes Hill Secondary College; Fitzroy High, Richmond High School; Rotary; Camberwell Grammar School; Catholic College Wodonga;  Goulburn Valley Grammar; Collingwood College; Ivanhoe Girls' Grammar School; Future Voices; La Trobe University; University of Melbourne; Deakin University Brahma Kumaris; African Lutheran Choir; VicBar; HerStory Circle; Kumulus Group; The Rotary Club of Carlton Inc; Rotary Club of Richmond; US Consulate; Rotary International District 9800; South East Water; Federation of Ukrainian Organisations; The Gandi Experiment; Universal Peace Federation; Yarra Valley Water
The Centre for Optimism.


Participant Comments

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."



Young People's Optimism at the Nelson Mandela Youth Leadership Summit


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


Nelson Mandela Youth Leadership Summit 2021


Nelson Mandela Youth Leadership Summit 2020


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