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  • 2023 Global Voices fellow

Small Voices on the Big Stage: A Personal Journey Through India and the Y20

Written by: Daniel Gao, 2023 Y20 Fellow



As the entourage of white vans parted the crowded city streets, I found myself transfixed by the scene unfolding outside my window. Families emerged from homes, shopkeepers emptied outside to their storefronts, and even the security holding back the sea of faces left their duties and turned their bodies as the vehicles whirred by. The metropolis that had been so distinctly chaotic and alive with sound had fallen silent. Yet, I found a strange comfort in the eyes I caught on the streetside. I was an 18-year-old far from home and nervously preparing to debate accomplished youth figures and leaders with far longer professional careers than my own. Seeing the faces of those beyond the glass filled with emotions far too familiar to me — curiosity, wonder and uncertainty — was a heartwarming and intimate moment of connection: our circumstances were so different, yet the feelings remained the same. I still recall that moment as I attend public policy lectures, plan local mental health initiatives and deliver speeches. Embedded in memory, it drives me to continue building upon my passion for impact at scale and reminds me of who I work and learn for: the faces around the world, some I have seen and some who I will never meet, who share in the world that I call home.


Being a part of the Y20 delegation gave me a perspective of the world, public policy and international diplomacy that I would never have otherwise attained. Travelling to India for both the official youth consultation of the G20 as well as the pre-summit alongside visionary young Australian leaders that shared in the same interests, passions and career aspirations as myself gave me a lifelong group of peers I will continue to stay in touch with and rebound ideas off. Our ragtag group of personalities was a worry at first, as I was unsure how our spunk and eccentricities would translate to the roundtable. However, the Australian delegation had, according to organisers at the event, established a reputation for being the youngest and most novel of all the countries that were represented, and our frequent interjections with original proposals and unique policy frameworks were welcomed with open arms. 


However, this was not to say that deliberations went smoothly and without complications. We found ourselves continuously behind schedule, and compensating through hurried meals and loss of sleep. Conflicts between delegates became increasingly difficult to navigate and at times in the negotiation process it felt as if there was no reasonable way to proceed. But it was the winding road through the long nights and heated debates where I learnt the most about this delicate procedure in pursuit of a final communique. Despite the overwhelming pressure with cameras trained on the speaker at any point in the discussion, at a fundamental level, it was a test of whether two people with vastly different backgrounds and experiences can reach a compromise. It taught me patience, understanding and empathy, skills I apply in my day-to-day interactions and work that has made me a stronger leader and more supportive listener. 


I reflect on my time in India and as part of the Australian delegation to the Y20 often, and although the grand celebrations, incredible speakers and gorgeous landscapes were truly special experiences, what I remember most vividly were the small voices on the big stage: the heartfelt deliberations, the intimate laughs over the dinner table and the short conversations with local students not much younger than myself. I’ll forever treasure my memories in India and hope that those who have contributed to making my experience so special recognise their influence in shaping me into the person I am today.


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The views and opinions expressed by Global Voices Fellows do not necessarily reflect those of the organisation or its staff.


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