Bachelor of Environment and Society student represents RMIT at United Nations Commission

Bachelor of Environment and Society student represents RMIT at United Nations Commission

Third year student Hannah Rutherford recently travelled to New York City to attend the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) at the United Nations on behalf of RMIT and young Australians.

The trip was made possible through RMIT Global Experiences, which provide students with opportunities to travel overseas. 

We spoke to Hannah about her trip and her time at RMIT.

How did you hear about this opportunity with RMIT Global Experiences?

I saw the program come up in my student emails in August 2022 – I always check my student emails for this exact reason!

The program involved an application process to attend an international delegation, of which I was most interested in attending the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women.

The successful applicant would be sponsored by RMIT to complete a policy paper on a gendered issue of their choosing and participate in the conference.

What was your role at the Commission and what was most exciting about the opportunity? 

I participated in workshops that covered a broad range of contemporary gender issues and met with Australian policy makers and government officials. 

What excited me most was meeting like-minded young women in the international relations space and learning about practical context responsive solutions to issues across the world, particularly early intervention responses to youth homelessness.

As part of the program, you wrote a policy paper about preventing young women’s homelessness in Australia. What inspired you to write the paper on this topic? 

Through volunteering on YMCA programs, I have learnt the immense value of providing unconditional positive regard and mentorship to young people who might not have regular access to safe relationships and spaces. 

YMCA Victoria's camps support young people experiencing social and economic disadvantage including those who live in foster or residential care and have diverse personal histories of trauma.

These factors place young people at higher risk of entering the homelessness cycle.

As such, I was inspired to explore early intervention models to reduce the risk of youth homelessness.

Considering the Commission's gendered focus on women, I refined the scope of my policy paper to address the unique plight of young women at risk of homelessness in Australia.

Student Hannah Rutherford at United Nations Conference Hannah Rutherford represented RMIT at the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) at the United Nations.

Has volunteering always been something of interest to you? 

I’m a big believer in saying yes to opportunities and putting your hand up to help out. I started volunteering at YMCA Victoria’s Youth Camp program in 2019.

My sister was studying a Bachelor of Youth Work at RMIT at the time and completed her placement on the program.

We’re very similar, and she thought I’d love to get involved too.  

She was right – I’ve been hooked on the camps since 2019. It’s a wonderful opportunity to provide disadvantaged young people with positive mentorship and community involvement in a fun and safe learning environment. 

What do you want to come from your policy paper?  

I hope to advocate for changes in how we address young women's homelessness in Australia, moving away from the crisis-oriented response to an early intervention model.

I'd love to design and deliver a mentorship program based on this. 

How has RMIT enriched your learning experience? 

RMIT has helped me in so many ways! The University offers incredible events, programs and opportunities external to your degree. 

I was privileged to receive the George Alexander Foundation Scholarship in my 2nd year at RMIT and complete the Global Voices Policy Writing Fellowship.  

On top of this, I secured a great casual gig with the Student Engagement and Transitions Team, helping new students at RMIT work out what our uni is all about and how to thrive in this wonderful community. 

What advice would you give to students wanting to get involved in RMIT opportunities such as Global Experiences? 

Always check your emails! RMIT has so many fantastic international opportunities, you have nothing to lose in applying and everything to gain!

Story: Abigail Lees  

25 May 2023


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Acknowledgement of Country

RMIT University acknowledges the people of the Woi wurrung and Boon wurrung language groups of the eastern Kulin Nation on whose unceded lands we conduct the business of the University. RMIT University respectfully acknowledges their Ancestors and Elders, past and present. RMIT also acknowledges the Traditional Custodians and their Ancestors of the lands and waters across Australia where we conduct our business - Artwork 'Luwaytini' by Mark Cleaver, Palawa.