Kristin Carson, SA Young Australian of the Year 2015, on Courage
If I had to summarise in just one word what I hope young people in Australia today get more of, it would be courage. Now when I have said this in the past most people say, are you serious, have you seen youth today? And sure, a lot of young people seem to have enough self-confidence to take on a Bengal tiger mid-meal. Sure it takes courage to sing in public, dye your hair blue or get a tattoo, but I think it takes more courage to sell your abilities during a job interview, say something when someone is being bullied or to stand up and be heard when talking about a cause you truly believe in. These are two very distinct forms of courage, one is saying “I don’t care what you think, this is who I am and you can either accept it or go jump”. Whilst the other type of courage is saying “I need you to listen to me, understand me and help me”.
So I guess the next logical question is how do we get more ‘listen to me’ courage, and that is a tricky one. I think it is something that develops over time and the triggers are different for everyone. For the most part I believe it centres on a desire or want. If there is something that a young person truly believes in, then that is when they start needing ‘listen to me’ courage. Unfortunately for some young people, they don’t always have all the other skills needed to get their message across, like being able to put thoughts into the right words, knowing the right people to talk with or what they should be doing to make things happen, and this can result in frustration, anger, tears and giving up. It is at this point where more courage is needed. To be able to ask for help, to say I am going to find a way to make this happen, even if it means letting people know that I am vulnerable.
As a scientist it is important for me to point out that I have not used evidence to underpin my thoughts. This is purely based on observation and how I felt growing up. For those of you who don’t know my story I was two points shy of failing year 12 and did no science subjects, yet now I am a senior medical research scientist and about to submit my PhD in Medicine. Yes I sang in public (not very well), had the blue hair and the tattoo rounds off the trifecta. But sometime during my teen years when I was using my courage to scream at the world, I spied my passion and started to listen more. That’s when I started to build up the courage to take myself more seriously and when I started to say ‘listen to me’ instead of ‘look at me’. So my hope for young people in Australia is that they too get more ‘listen to me’ courage so that they can make their own futures anything they want it to be, regardless of what position they are in right now, the colour of their hair or the profile picture they have on Facebook.