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Often the greatest innovations are made when you’re surrounded by like-minded people. This is one of the key strategies of the National Youth Science Forum – to bring together young Australians who are passionate about STEM and help them to begin to build their professional networks.

In November this year, media website Junkee aimed to capture this spirit in their inaugural youth unconference, “Junket”. It brought some of Australia’s brightest minds to Canberra for three days, trying to tackle the issues facing the country’s future.

When is a Junket an unconference? - content image


Selected from a wide range of disciplines, the “Junketeers” were from all over the country, and from a huge range of cultures, religions, and sexual identities.

NYSF alumni, Mark McAnulty (2013) and Brody Hannan (2014), represented the Australian National University (ANU) at the conference.

The conference first kicked off with over 100 of the participants pitching some of their ideas around issues they were passionate about, ranging anywhere from tackling the aged-care crisis, funding science, stopping urban sprawl, as well as rebranding sexual health and fighting racism.

This was followed by the “F#ck Up Club", where each participant was encouraged to discuss their personal and entrepreneurial failings. A common regret that many people had was not taking a risk and trying something new.

“The rest of the conference saw each of us pitch our own ideas that that we were passionate about,” says Brody, “anywhere from education, to indigenous health, climate change and science communication. These sessions gave Mark and me a chance to share our passions and ideas with others, as well as explore issues that we had never considered before.”

Another great touch to the conference was the “Telstra Elevator Pitch” – a real life elevator pitch at the conference venue. “We each had the time of an elevator ride to pitch an idea to a camera”, explains Brody, “with the best pitch winning a prize pack from Telstra.”

With the winner to be soon announced, the videos of the pitches can be seen through the Telstra Elevator Pitch website.

At the “human library”, participants could come and “borrow” a leader for their “story” to be told. From engineers, politicians, even the US Ambassador to Australia, there were many inspirational people to talk to about some of their great big ideas.

Mark says the greatest part of the conference was the opportunity to engage with the other participants, “from simple conversations at breakfast or dinner, to getting into a passionate debate over veganism, or the best way to tackle racism, every single person we met was inspiring, and most importantly, generous with their time. Since the conference we’ve started new ventures with other participants, been to meet-ups, and helped each other tackle issues that we each face in our local communities.”

“It was a very unique experience for Brody and me and we want to thank the ANU for giving us the opportunity to represent it at such a novel platform for exploring youth innovation.”

“If you want to change something around you, statistically, you will be far more successful if you work with others. The question to then ask is, ‘What idea will you share?’”

With plans for Junket 2016 already being made, for more information see the Junket homepage .

By Brody Hannan