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Congratulations Benson Saulo on becoming Australian Youth Representative to the United Nations

On the 2nd April 2011, a date I will remember for a very long time, I received a phone call that would ultimately change my life and the life of other around me. For me to capture the significance of this phone call I will need to begin 5 months earlier; the end of October 2010.

Sitting at my desk with my daily coffee flicking through emails that had hit my inbox during the night and ungodly earlier hours of the morning, I came across an email from one of my Sydney networks announcing ‘applications closing soon for a 2011 United Nations Representative’. Comfortable as I was in my current role I simply deleted the email and thought nothing more of it. 20mins later my email alert popped-up on screen, this time from a Koorie network again advising ‘2011 United Nations Representative Applications closing soon’. I had a brief scan of the email ‘Consultation tour’, ‘United Nations’, ‘New York’ were the obvious standouts but again it went into my deleted items. It wasn’t until it came through my email for a freakish third time with a friendly note saying you should check this out. I decided I will apply.

For the next hour short answer drafts filled my desktop before holding my breath as I submitted my expression of interest to be considered for the 1st of three rounds of selection. Nervous but not expecting much I continued to plow through my work. Two weeks without a word, I had convinced myself it wasn’t meant to happen.

My eyes lit up one November morning. In my inbox sat an email, addressed ‘Dear Applicant’ advising my success to proceed to the long written submission component of the application. Four long answers with an in-depth plan to implements my consultation tour if I were successful. The process of addressing each answer was long and hard, I had a clear plan on how I wanted to run an engaging national tour with Australian youth but whether I could articulate the thought, consideration and sleepless hours I poured into the application, I just want sure. Just one day before the long submissions closed I, again nervous but now breathing heavy, shakily emailed my final application.

When you put your thoughts or ideas in the hands of someone else to review and critic you feel so vulnerable, especially when you don’t know who’s hands it may end up in. A number of anxious nights followed and hundreds of re-reads of my submission by this time it had become an obsession. I wanted the position, I wanted it so badly I would wake-up in the middle of the night with ideas for my consultation tour which I would write down in a notepad next to my bed, I bought a new laptop, a video camera and I began reading about building websites, famous speeches and historical events.

I was fortunate enough to have an introduction to the 2009 Australian Youth Representative, Chris Varney. Chris is an amazing person and considered one of most influential Australian Youth Representatives to the United Nations since the program began in 1999. Chris’s passion for global issues in particular the empowerment of young people and the promotion of equality in society was evident in the way he spoke and the pride he displayed when sharing his experience as the 2009 Youth Representative. I walked away from our brief but intense discussion feeling a new sense of purpose, a sense that the email I received three times in one morning was a sign that my journey was only in its early stages.

Christmas passed. No word. I love what I do, I work for a great company and a wonderful supportive team but it is only natural to feel disappointed when you’ve invested yourself into anything and you don’t get the outcome you want, this is what I was feeling, disappointment. January slowly passed.

In early February 2011 sitting with my morning coffee flicking through emails I received what felt like a jump start from a defibrillator to my chest. An email advising I had been successful making it to the Formal Interview and final stage of the application process.

Two weeks later I was sitting in front of an interview panel literally shaking (but trying to conceal it). I had prepared, I had taken all the deep breath I could but the idea that everything I had written and read hinged on the next 20mins of whether it was all worth it, I knew it was all worth it but my success was dependent on the outcome of the interview.

I could not tell you what I said in the interview, not because its top secret, I walked out blank. The questions came, I’m pretty sure I answered them and I shook their hands, smiled and left. Blank. You know when you think of a good comeback or joke but it comes to you when the moment is already passed. This is what haunted me for the next month.

March passed. I sent a follow-up email (maybe more than one…) There is a fine line between eager and annoying, I think I was the balancing act between the two. In my mind I was keen to know either way if I had been successful or not but in the mind of the person reviewing applicants I was sitting in the annoying side of the court.

Saturday, 2nd April 2011. The phone call. “Congratulations you are the 2011 Australian Youth Representative to the United Nations”. An amazing wave of happiness swept over me – hard to explain but if you could imagine something that you have wanted so much for nearly half a year, you’re emotionally invested, you have allowed yourself and abilities to be judged and suddenly everything you had dedicated yourself too pays off, it all comes together in a few simple words. That is what I felt and continue to feel.

I am the first Indigenous Australian to become the Youth Representative to the United Nations an amazing honor and something I am proud of. It has now been one week in this position. I know the responsibility and expectations will be great but I also know that wonderful people like Chris, UNYA , Family and Friends will provide me with the support to achieve my goals and outcomes during my consultation tour and time at the United Nations General Assembly.


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