How to create a human rights ambassador?

Last year Amnesty Townsville created a new initiative to reach out to high school students in their community. Here is how they did it…

The Human Rights Ambassador Project is an initiative of the Townsville Amnesty Action Group in cooperation with James Cook University aimed at getting information on Human Rights into local High Schools. JCU students are trained as Human Rights Ambassadors (HRAs) to deliver presentations on Human Rights to students in participating high schools. In 2017 a pilot project was conducted with 10 Human Rights Ambassadors and three participating high schools.

How did they find Human Rights Ambassadors? 

BA3000 lecturer Marie Oelgemoeller with HRAs Jayden, Maigan and Brianna

JCU students with an interest in Human Rights were invited to participate in the program. Applicants we asked to submit an expression of interest and to participate in a selection process. Of the ten who were finally selected, six were from the subject BA3000. As part of BA3000, students can complete an internship with a community organisation (minimum of 20 hours) and write a report on this involvement. Perfect opportunity to have their Amnesty involvement contribute to their education!

Teachers from a number of Townsville High Schools were invited to participate in the program. The schools were asked to nominate a presentation they would like for their school. Three local high schools participated in the project in 2017. HRAs met with teachers at the three schools to negotiate topics for the presentations.

Training

The first part of the project were two training workshops where the HRAs were given a basic grounding in Human Rights and Human Rights education. The HRAs with the assistance of Amnesty group members then gathered materials for their presentations on the agreed topics.

Presentations and feedback 

The school presentations took place in October and the feedback from teachers at the participating schools was very positive.

From Kirwan SHS : “I surveyed the students afterward and asked for direct honesty and they universally loved the session. The presenters were good. The students thought that the information about refugees was the most valuable to them (they had no idea). Being delivered on a personal level meant that the take up was high. The movement of students and changes in learning modality were all well-conceived.”

From William Ross SHS : “I’d just like to express my sincere thanks to Maigan and Jayden for visiting William Ross State High School and running a Human Rights lesson for our Year 10 Extension class. The information was highly relevant, engaging and well presented. Our year 10 students were engaged for the full session and actively participated.”

Next Steps 

At the completion of the program Amnesty group members met with the HRAs to present certificates of appreciation to the HRAs and also get their ideas about the future of the program. All agreed that it had been a worthwhile experience. Several HRAs who will be at JCU in 2018 indicated they were interested in continuing in the program.

Our plan is to expand the project to at least six schools in 2018 with 15 HRAs. The HRAs will be recruited in August and September and will undergo a three day intensive training program in the lecture recess in September. The school presentations will then take place in the fourth school term in October.

Stay tuned for more information about how to engage with schools in your local area! A local group guide will be available later in March.