Danikka Calyon, Ignite participant turned member of staff will be travelling to New York to address world leaders about issues facing Aboriginal young people. Nominated by partner Save the Children, the Armadale youngster will embark on the trip of a lifetime to the United Nations summit as part of an Australian Youth Delegation.
After growing up in low socio-economic parts of Perth where drug and alcohol problems run rife, a Noongar teenager is now pleading for change on an international stage.
Danikka Calyon, of Armadale, is Save the Children Australia’s youth ambassador and at a United Nations conference in New York this month will lobby for better opportunities for young Aboriginals.
The Mercedes Ladies College Year 11 scholarship student considered her upbringing normal, despite her father being in and out of jail for drug offences and her home being a refuge for children escaping neglect.
She said her mother Nicole instilled in her the values of kindness and helping those in need, which drove her to volunteer with Save the Children’s One Step Closer youth engagement program.
She is now a youth worker for the program.
In 2013, she saw her cousin, then 14, get involved with alcohol, drugs and crime because “everyone does it”.
“I told her we are individuals who set our own path and don’t have to live up to Aboriginal stereotypes,” she said.
Danikka, 16, believes a lack of understanding about her culture and lack of support from schools and families are to blame, especially if students have to go to school without food or clean clothes.
She said her Aboriginal peers lacked the self-confidence to strive for more than the negative expectation.
Danikka estimated only 30 per cent of the Aboriginal students at her last school attended regularly.
“I was the only top-level Aboriginal student … I felt isolated sometimes,” she said.
Danikka will go to Canberra next week to meet other youth ambassadors, ministers and ambassadors to Australia from the US, Italy, France and Germany and learn how to create powerful pitches.
Five days later she will go to New York, her first overseas trip, to meet 19 other youth ambassadors and hone skills learnt in Australia before addressing 150 delegates.
“Outsiders don’t see the issues we are facing — we need to fix this,” she said. “I want to make people aware of the inequality of opportunities Aboriginal youth face.”