House debates

Wednesday, 3 July 2024


Fairfax Electorate: Generation Innovation

7:30 pm

Photo of Ted O'BrienTed O'Brien (Fairfax, Liberal Party, Shadow Minister for Climate Change and Energy) Share this | | Hansard source

Ten years ago, the Sunshine Coast was struggling with the challenge of youth unemployment. At that time, the community looked at each other and, instead of turning to government, instead of blaming corporates, decided to take control into their own hands and try to solve that very problem. They did so by coming together under a program and an organisation called Generation Innovation. Generation Innovation is a not-for-profit, the mission of which is to unleash the innovative genius of young people. Central to Generation Innovation's business model was something referred to as the GI Challenge—the Generation Innovation Challenge. It was an annual program that invited young people who thought they had an idea—may be also a pep in their step—and a willingness to try their hand at entrepreneurship. This, it was thought, could be an idea to positively and proactively address that challenge of youth unemployment. And it worked.

This year, we will see the 10th anniversary of Generation Innovation's GI Challenge. In fact, it starts this very month. Over those 10 years, we have seen young people come into the program and be mentored by Sunshine Coast and Noosa business leaders. We have seen them grow enormously, because volunteers have come onboard who believe in unleashing the innovative genius of young people. We have had companies and other organisations sponsor either in kind or in cash to make sure that these young people have an opportunity. This is an opportunity that comes to young people who have their own idea, but the program allows them to commercialise their idea. This is not some school based, academic exercise but rather something that connects young people to the real market economy. Over those 10 years, the case studies have been extraordinary. Young people have gone from just an idea—nothing more than a lightbulb moment—through to establishing their own enterprises. Some of them are serial entrepreneurs now. Still to this day, Generation Innovation is run by a board of volunteers. My credit goes to Shane Cunningham, who is currently in the chair, and those board members.

Ten years ago, when my wife Sophia and I founded Generation Innovation, entrepreneurship and startups might have been part of the equation, but they weren't really what we were getting at. We saw an opportunity where young people could become local heroes to other people, not because they were smart, good looking or great at sport, but rather because they had the moral courage to take on an idea and try to commercialise it—because they had the guts to follow what they believed, and they were prepared to put in the hard work to make it happen.

In turn, the young people who were participants in this program previously and shall be again this year are the very ones who are showing inspiration to other young people who could be sitting on a couch, on the beach or in a car when they hear their stories, prompting them to say, 'You know what, if they can do that, maybe so too can I." Therein lies the beauty of Generation Innovation and the GI Challenge. It's a community coming together to unleash the innovative genius of young people. GI challenge 2024, see you soon.