Mele-Ane Havea on Amelia Telford
There’s no doubt about it—Amelia Telford is a force. On the day of our conversation, a typically overcast and steely Melbourne morning, she bounded into the office sporting a backpack and a broad smile. It was as if the sun had come out.
She opened her arms to give me a hug and asked that I call her “Millie.” I warmed to her immediately.
I’d heard about Millie before, a young climate warrior who was all of 20 and already making huge waves with her organisation Seed. The list of accolades rolled on: National NAIDOC Youth of the Year, Bob Brown’s Young Environmentalist of the Year, the Australian Geographic Young Conservationist of the Year. Each one of them had recognised Millie’s deep commitment to building a more just and sustainable future for young people.
I was curious to learn what had inspired this young woman to postpone a medical degree and start Seed, Australia’s first Indigenous youth-led climate network. With support from the Australian Youth Climate Coalition, Seed educates and empowers Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people to lead climate campaigns and projects across the country. Since 2013, it has mobilised more than 120,000 young Australians to connect and join together in the fight for climate justice.
I assumed Millie would be smart, driven and passionate. And, yes, she is all of these things, but what strikes me most in our conversation is the obvious weight of responsibility she feels. I once read that climate change is the perfect moral storm, largely because its biggest impacts are felt by people who are not proximate to us—the marginalised in society and, of course, future generations. When we can’t see it, the author noted, we can easily ignore our moral obligations. I realised that many of us tend to live as though our choices don’t deeply impact future generations. Millie, however, is well aware of the fact. Weaved into our conversation is an acknowledgement of generations to come and a deep respect for those past. The awareness of these connections that is a lived reality for her.
Ultimately, it is her community—her connection to family, culture and land—that both propels Millie to do the work she does and makes her feel supported when things become challenging. By the end the conversation, I’m convinced that it’s these deep connections that allow her to carry this load and do this work with joy. The sense of connectedness rubs off on me and despite talking about big and difficult issues, I’m left buoyed by the conversation, feeling somehow stronger. If this what the future of leadership in Australia looks like, then there is plenty to be hopeful about.