Satcheldemic: Cayley Lancaster, business/commerce
Late last year, Cayley Lancaster, 20, packed her woollies and set off for Bonn, Germany, where the commerce/international business student attended a mock U.N. conference dubbed 'MUN'.
"I'm part of an organisation called Honours College at uni, and they look to develop students in leadership development, professional development and community engagement, so they invest money in you if you show potential in specific areas to make you more well-rounded," says Cayley, who won a scholarship to study at Griffith University and is undertaking a four-year double-degree and a diploma in Spanish.
After a full 2011, which included attending the Model United Nations Conference at UQ in Brisbane (BrizMUN) in April, which gave her a taste for what it's all about, and the Asia-Pacific Model UN Conference in Canberra (AMUNC) in July, she applied to do the same in Germany.
At each conference, Cayley's role has been to represent a country by speaking on a key issue after preparing a working paper to state her case. In Canberra, she was part of the UNICEF group, dealing with issues pertinent to today, including gender inequality in primary education and children's conditions in migrant and refugee centres.
Over five days in Germany, 150 the students gathered each morning in their youth hostel to share breakfast before jumping on a bus to a conference room in a hotel in the city centre. Prior to leaving, Cayley was give two topics to prepare a paper on – food security and gender equality – and a country to represent: the Republic of Nicaragua
"You have to research and write a position paper that states your country's position and views, what they're currently doing about the issue and what needs to be done in order to achieve, say, gender equality in the workplace, by looking at funding or education," says Cayley.
At the beginning of the conference, each country is given the opportunity to present their position for two minutes. The students sit in alphabetical order of their countries, with a placard at each place, and there are 25 countries on each committee. Cayley's committee, ECOSOC, was bi-lingual with French and English translators present (yes, she wore the headphones).
The group follows the UN process for drafting recommendations to reach a draft resolution for the nations to vote on to support the conclusion of each topic. During the process, students learn the ropes of the UN, how its representatives discuss and debate the issues and how it reaches its recommendations.
"People open debate with a moderated caucus, on, for example, food security and creating a world without famine and the effects of war on that, and each country takes turns to speak if you want to speak," she says.
"Then people start to write working papers, which are submitted to the chairs, which are then discussed and debated to get a well-rounded draft resolution in the end. Then each country has to vote on whether they are for or against the draft resolution and whether they will support and implement the points on the document."
For Cayley, coming to an agreed resolution in a context where there are strong people representing big countries, quiet people who don't say a lot, and some countries with very strong religious views, proved an interesting challenge.
"It can't be your view, it has to be your country's view," she says. "Nicaragua has a pretty corrupt government, so it's not likely they're going to do a whole lot to implement the resolutions, anyway. They say they will support the western ideas, but they just want to attract as much money as they can get."
Did it leave her feeling disenchanted with the UN? "I understand it politically, how diplomatic it has to be, but there are a lot of procedures you can't question, and it's very time consuming, and in the end they're not enforcing anything," she says. "It's a good organisation, they do what they can towards social justice and improving and protecting the world, but if countries don't abide by the recommendations, there's not a whole lot the UN can do."
In Nicaragua, a high percentage of women by the age of 20 are married, widowed or divorced, which means many aren't going onto tertiary education, which therefore affects how many women are working in professional jobs. Over half the population is below the poverty line, and the idea of women staying in the home is still ingrained in the culture and sexual and domestic violence undermine women's rights.
"A lot of it has to do with poverty," says Cayley. "But women are starting businesses for themselves; communities and villages are starting to work together to economically improve their family lives and communities."
Cayley's particular passion is microfinance. After attending a conference called COMPASS, she became impassioned about addressing inequality through her own studies. "It's a practical way that I can help," she says.
"When it comes to business, you need people who can influence economic outcomes. A lot of my friends are studying health, and want to work as missionaries overseas, but I think accountancy is perhaps overlooked as a way to help. I've always had an interest in South America – I don't know where that will take me, but I'd like to work there teaching people business skills."
Originally from the Central Coast, NSW, and one of three girls, Cayley moved with her family to Queensland five years ago, where she completed grades 11 and 12. She took a year off after completing high school, achieving an OP2 in her HSC and winning her scholarship, to study a Diploma of Performing Arts full-time at the Davidia Lind Dance Centre.
"I'm always open to learning, no matter what area I'm in," she says. "I did dance growing up, mainly ballet, and completed my first exam at eight. I was a part of the Christian Dance Fellowship of Australia, and we'd tour around and do shows."
Now dance plays a secondary role, Cayley, who turns 21 in May, is focused on completing her studies and further travel.
"I'm thinking of going on exchange to South America, studying in Ecuador, because I'm studying Spanish" she says. "I've never been there, but I already love the culture and the language. On the tour of Europe I did after the conference in Germany, there were two Columbians, and my teacher from uni is from Argentina and I have a friend from Columbia."
The COMPASS conversation group she's involved in is focusing on the culture of the Bible, and looking at translating the issues, but also on individuals, which is helping Cayley hone her vision. "The Bible is a big thing, but it's all about individuals and putting into very practical terms how we love other people."
Girl With a Satchel