Hundreds expected for radical youth conference

Issue 

By Sam Lazarro

"Green, feminist, anti-racist, activist, internationalist: Talking about a Revolution!" is the theme of the 23rd Resistance national conference, to be held at Sydney University from July 8-10. Hundreds of radical young activists from high schools, campuses and workplaces and young unemployed activists are expected to participate in the discussions and actions.

Resistance has been active around youth rights issues since its formation in the late 1960s. Its more recent campaigns include: opposition to the training wage, the right of young people to sex information, young women's right to choose abortion, against cuts to education, for protection of the environment and against racism.

The conference will be an opportunity for Resistance activists to reflect on campaigns of the past year and plan for the year ahead. The important links between international trends, Australian politics, campus and trade union campaigns, and developing Resistance into a stronger activist organisation will be discussed in five main reports. Panels and workshops throughout the conference will allow for more informal and detailed discussion on the issues.

"Resistance believes that young people need to get out there and fight for their future", conference organiser Francesca Davidson told Green Left Weekly. "We can't afford to let a system that perpetuates poverty, inequality and injustice continue unchallenged. This conference will address key issues facing young people and plan ways for us to organise to change the situation. Being part of a growing movement for change is what Resistance is all about."

A prominent feature of this year's conference will be the strengthening of solidarity with national liberation struggles around the world. The conference will open with a rally demanding an end to Australian intervention in the Asia-Pacific region. Activists from the East Timor Association, Fretilin, Bougainville, Papua New Guinea and the Philippines have been invited to speak at this action, which will take place in the city centre.

Davidson is optimistic of a good response. "We expect at least 200 young people to come out onto the streets. We want to involve as many people as possible in protesting the destructive role the Australian government is playing in the region."

Day one of the conference will focus on international politics. Activists from Papua New Guinea, the Philippines, the United States and New Zealand will speak. There will also be an opportunity for more detailed discussion and questions in a series of workshops on South Africa, Latin America and the Asia-Pacific.

A conference highlight will be the panels which examine current debates in the social movements. In "Campaigning for environmental justice" activists from Papua New Guinea, Environmental Youth Alliance and the Democratic Socialist Party will discuss green political strategies, giving a chance for people to learn more about the struggle for environmental justice in other countries.

Feminist activists will find the conference a place where they can get together and discuss issues relevant to young women today. The international year of the family, pro-choice campaigns, sexuality, the relation between race and gender, and postmodernism are just some of the issues that the panel "The struggle for women's liberation today: feminists speak out" will cover.

According to Davidson, "1994 has been a year of attacks on young workers and the unemployed. The government has introduced training wages and threatened to abolish the under-18 dole. Poverty and unemployment are on the rise. It is outrageous that when the economy is supposedly coming out of recession these attacks continue.

"Company profits over the past two years have been at a record high, and yet no consideration at all is being put into real job creation, adequate education funding or environmental protection. So long as companies are able to pollute the environment unhampered and prioritise profits over jobs, we will have no social justice.

"Our future is still at risk. Discussing the ways we can build a political alternative to this will be central to our conference. Young people need to organise themselves to be an effective fighting force."

Besides panels, workshops and the rally, there will also be plenty of social occasions planned for people to get to know each other. For a copy of the agenda or more information, call Resistance on (02) 690 1230.

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