The Commonwealth Youth Forum (CYF) was opened by Australia’s Prime Minister Julia Gillard at a spirited ceremony in the Western Australian city of Fremantle on Monday, 24 October 2011.
Some 300 dignitaries, delegates and guests - including pupils from local schools - were welcomed with a traditional Aboriginal smoking ceremony, an indigenous dance and choir performance.
In her address, Ms Gillard urged young people: “Let your voice be heard and be informed by the values we hold dear as a Commonwealth. Those defining values of fairness, democracy, equality and opportunity for all.
“We call these Commonwealth values. But in truth, they are human values. Values that draw from us dreams of a better future, that draw us together in idealism.
“To believe in the possibility of a better world and give of your own energies and efforts to make it possible."
She added: “Be idealists, speak with passion and commitment because you represent the future and the success or failure of that future depends on you.”
Speaking at the event, Commonwealth Secretary-General Kamalesh Sharma expressed his delight that the 2011 Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) was being held in Australia, with the CYF being the first official event of the week-long programme.
The Secretary-General said he was looking forward to what is going to be achieved at the forum: “We wish our youth to be a wellspring of optimism for all of us, and the energy of young people should be better used."
At the opening ceremony, the Australian Minister for School Education, Early Childhood and Youth, Peter Garrett, praised the Commonwealth for its commitment and willingness to work with young people.
Of CYF, he said: “It’s a unique occasion and a big opportunity for the voice of Commonwealth youth to be heard with the hope - in fact the necessity - that the words here are matched by action.”
On the agenda is youth participation in decision-making; peace-building and conflict management; environmental sustainability; health; and sustainable livelihoods and the economy.