BETWEEN meetings with Australian political leaders to advocate for global education funding, Michael Sheldrick found time to share the journey that led him to New York with students at his former Mindarie school.
The 29-year-old was in Perth last week visiting family in Kinross, where he grew up, and spoke to Mindarie Senior College students about his role as policy and advocacy director at Global Citizen, an organisation that encourages people to take action on global social issues.
Mr Sheldrick is currently campaigning for Australia to increase its funding to the Global Partnership for Education (GPE), which aims to raise $3.1 billion to deliver quality education to more than 870 million children in 89 countries between 2018 and 2020.
He has worked alongside GPE ambassador and singer Rihanna in the appeal and met with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and former United States First Lady Michelle Obama, and his trip to Australia included meetings with Foreign Minister Julie Bishop’s office in Canberra and WA Deputy Premier Roger Cook.
“With Australia the question is are they going to continue to give what they’ve given in the past or are they going to show real leadership?” he said.
“We need countries like Australia to step up.”
The former Clarkson Community High School and Mindarie student and 2013 Young West Australian of the Year was approached by a friend to help with Global Citizen, then known as the Global Poverty Project, while he was at university studying an arts/law degree.
They were campaigning to eradicate polio and Mr Sheldrick was tasked with getting it on the agenda of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Perth in 2011.
He organised the End of Polio concert featuring John Legend in the Swan Valley and was able to gain support from then Prime Minister Julia Gillard, who announced a $50 million injection to the Global Polio Eradication Initiative.
“We realised no amount of tin rattling alone would solve this, we need governments involved,” he said.
“We’re at the brink of making polio only the second disease in history to be eradicated.”
Based in New York for nearly five years, Mr Sheldrick said his journey sometimes felt surreal.
He had a speech impediment and struggled with school for many years before turning things around.
“When I was at Mindarie I had no idea I’d be doing the work I’m doing now,” he said.
“I still remember what it felt like to be that kid who people said would never amount to anything.
“I remember the difference teachers made in my life; I consider it an injustice that there’s millions of children more talented than me born into poverty who are not able to access education.”
When speaking to students he tries to relate back to his own experience and challenges faced.
“The reality is if you like something and are passionate about it, you’re likely going to do well at it,” he said.
Mr Sheldrick said young people were often tasked with basic jobs like tin rattling when volunteering but they were capable of much more.
“My message to them is if you want to make a difference, don’t feel constrained by that, young people are capable of going out and making a difference,” he said.
“One of the ways you can make a difference is through your voice.
“When you get enough people mobilised the government will listen to you, no matter how old you are.”
Global Citizen encourages people to take action via its app or www.globalcitizen.org and they earn rewards for concert tickets.