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New Colombo Plan scholars strengthening ties with the Pacific through youth leadership summit

Five New Colombo Plan scholars were among 30 young leaders from Australia and the Pacific who gathered in Noumea, New Caledonia in November for the inaugural Pacific-Australia Youth Association (PAYA Inc.) Youth Leadership Summit.

The summit focused on building shared understanding and engagement between Pasifika and Australian youth on important regional issues, such as sustainability, education and health.

Across three days, delegates were challenged to develop strategies to boost access to education, enhance health and wellbeing support in rural and remote locations, and harness the power of cross-cultural collaboration to promote understanding across the region.

NCP scholars Dominic de Moura McCarthy and Paul Kaletsis were instrumental in organising the summit while 2021 NCP Vanuatu scholar and Bond University law and international relations student, Josiah Neal supported the logistics in his role as PAYA Inc.’s operations manager.

Josiah says the sessions were designed to foster collaboration as delegates worked together to develop unique and cross-cultural solutions to regional challenges.  

“Despite our different backgrounds and nationalities, we were able to build life-long connections by exploring topics that unite us,” he says. 

“One example of this is sports. The summit saw presentations on the importance of sports diplomacy while delegates also had the chance to play touch football alongside professional Rugby League team Pacifique XIII. 

“Sport is such a strong connector in the Pacific, which serves a common ground for building deeper relationships.

“There was a great sense of camaraderie by the end of the three-day summit, which was highlighted at the closing ceremony when delegates spontaneously started performing song and dance from their respective cultures.”

The summit’s official welcome was delivered by the Australian Consul-General to New Caledonia and Wallis and Futuna, Annelise Young while Australia’s Minister for International Development and the Pacific, the Hon. Pat Conroy MP, officially opened the conference via a video message.

PAYA Inc delegates at Australia Consulate-General in Noumea
PAYA Inc delegates at Australia Consulate-General in Noumea.

A diverse range of speakers presented at the summit, including former New Zealand Ambassador and current Director of Integration,

Resource Mobilisation and Partnerships at the Pacific Community, Karena Lyons; UNICEF Pacific Ambassador, Gladys Habu; Kanak entrepreneur and Founder and CEO of, Christiane Waneissi; and Australia Pacific Security College’s Dr Nick Thomson.

Josiah says the NCP has played an important role in PAYA Inc’s ability to foster connections in the Pacific, with the NCP scholars drawing on their scholarship experiences to gain new knowledge and enhance the richness of the Summit discussions.

“The connections we have made during our NCP experiences helped us engage with a wide base of stakeholders, helping us provide the best experience for our delegates, and the best outcomes for our members year-round,” he says. 

PAYA Inc, a youth-led organisation that strives to contribute towards a more prosperous Pacific by building an engaged community united by the values of connection, understanding and opportunity, is led by Janice Ashwin and Dominic de Moura McCarthy. 

Janice, who is based in the Solomon Islands, is an alum of DFAT’s Australia Awards program while Dominic is a 2023 NCP Alumni Ambassador.

PAYA Inc’s Inaugural Youth Leadership Summit delegates
PAYA Inc’s Inaugural Youth Leadership Summit delegates.

Following the success of the first summit, Dominic says the PAYA Inc. team has begun planning for another event for 2023.

"After lots of positive feedback and interest, the Youth Leadership Summit will become PAYA Inc's. flagship annual event,” Dominic says.

“Planning is now underway for the 2023 Youth Leadership Summit which will take place in another country in the Pacific.”

For more information on PAYA Inc., visit the PAYA Inc. website.

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