National Youth Summit on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)

screen-shot-2016-12-07-at-5-55-17-pmOn 17 October 2016, more than 100 young Australian leaders from 60+ student associations and youth organisations gathered in Melbourne to discuss and collaborate on the implementation of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in Australia.

The summit was co-hosted by the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN) – Youth (Australia/Pacific chapter), Global Ideas and the Foundation for Young Australians.

Download the Summit Outcomes Report.

The aims of the summit were to

  • Evaluate Australia’s performance towards the SDGs
  • Build a common understanding of what the SDGs mean for young Australians
  • Identify how student and youth groups can collaborate to advance the goals in Australia

The summit built on the momentum created by the Youth Pledge on the SDGs – a document outlining a set of priorities and commitments that was signed by more than 24 Australian youth and student organisations.



The Youth Summit was opened by several fantastic keynote speakers, who provided background to the SDGs and why they are important to future generations. They included Dr Paul Smith, Deputy Secretary at the Victorian Department of Environment, Land, Water & Planning (DELWP); Professor John Thwaites, Co-Chair of SDSN; Catherine Hunter, Chair of the Global Compact Network Australia and Partner at KPMG; Matt Tinkler, Director of Policy and Public Affairs at Save the Children; and the UN Secretary General’s Envoy on Youth, Ahmad Alhendawi, who sent a special video message for the occasion.



Leaders from prominent Australian youth organisations, including the Oaktree Foundation, Oxfam, YGap, University of Melbourne Student Union, Undress Runways, SDSN Youth, and AIESEC Australia provided their perspectives on the role young people, youth groups and student associations in addressing the SDGs in Australia.

All participants got a chance to contribute through breakout group discussions on how Australian youth organisations are currently contributing to the SDGs and what needs to happen to strengthen their contributions.

During most of the morning session the Summit hashtag #Youth4SDGs was trending as number 1 on Twitter.

Four main themes emerged from the discussions:

  • Many Australian youth groups and student organisations are already contributing to one or more of the SDGs, although they may not be aware of it yet.
  • Many Australians don’t know about the SDGs, and there is need to inform them about the goals and their importance.
  • The SDGs framework provides an opportunity for Australian youth to collaborate more effectively around a common agenda.
  • The SDGs are not perfect but they are a great tool to set the benchmark for policy makers, businesses and organisations alike.

The key next steps recommended by the Youth Summit were:

  • Creating a space for collaboration, coordination and exchange of ideas between different Australian youth and student groups, in order to increase collective impact.
  • Encouraging all youth and student organisations to align their existing objectives and missions with the SDGs framework. In particular to use the Goals as a label for their activities, in order to streamline priorities and objectives across Australian society.
  • Launching a series of public awareness campaigns to inform everyday people, in particular youth about the SDGs and its importance to Australia’s future.

The National Youth Summit on the SDGs was made possible with the generous support of the Lord Mayor’s Charitable Foundation, Sue Mathews, Diversicon Environmental Foundation and Monash University.