Q&A with the Conservative Leadership Foundation on my trip to Geneva and why I see myself as a conservative

Q&A with Andrea Tokaji

Hi Andrea, how long have you been involved with conservative activism? When did you develop an interest and first get involved?

I have always been involved in speaking up for those who cannot speak up for them selves – whether that was for those with a mental illness, for those with a disability, for Indigenous people, for trafficked persons, for refugees, or for persecuted minorities, I have always been drawn to social justice advocacy. 

I believe this is at the core of defending our rule of law, our rights and freedoms, and our traditions – as conservatives. 

My past experiences have very much shaped my desire to speak up for the vulnerable. 

As a human rights advocate, I advocate for trafficked persons through my Foundation: Fighting for Justice Foundation, I advocate for persecuted minorities with Christian Faith and Freedom, and provide pro bono human rights legal education, training and advocacy through CLEAR International Australia – providing legal research and human rights education in the developing world.

My advocacy takes the form of political lobbying, putting policy motions forward, making submissions on legal reform and providing community education and speaking at conferences – nationally and internationally. 

I am currently a Member of UN Women, and a Member of the Australian Institute of International Affairs. 

As a member of the Liberal Party, I was the Candidate for the Gininnderra Electorate in the ACT in 2008. I saw this as an act of serving my community – something which I have dome for the past 20 years in various voluntary capacities. 

Tell us a little bit about yourself, your background, your work, etc.

As a refugee child whose family fled Communist Romania – for being persecuted for our faith and ethnicity, I experienced and saw much injustice at a young age. 

As humanitarian refugees to Australia, we experienced racism, discrimination, exploitation and poverty when we first moved here, with no belongings, no money, not speaking a word of English, and not knowing anyone. 

My parents worked two jobs each, my mother working 17 hour shifts as a nurse, so she could provide private education for her children. 

Even though I had the opportunity to pursue sport as a career, I prioritised studies. 

I have studied Theology, Counselling and Family Therapy, and completed my Juris Doctor, a Masters of International Law and an intensive course in Political Philosophy through the Lachlan Macquarie Internship. 

I have work in the community sector, for NGO’s, for International Organisations, for the Australian Government and I have run my own business. Alongside my pursuit of a career in the social services and in law, I volunteered much of my time to human rights causes, such as the plight of trafficked children.

More recently, I have focused my time and energy into international human rights advocacy full time, which includes providing human rights and advocacy training and speaking at conferences. 

You recently attended the Geneva Institute for Leadership and Public Policy, how was the experience and what did you discuss in your time there?

Every year, Global Hope Network International bring together leaders of Nations and Government Officials at the Geneva Institute for Leadership and Public Policy to help leaders to transform their Nations towards prosperity and liberty, to promote public policy created by enlightened and compassionate public leadership, bridging the gap between governments and those living in poverty. 

This intensive week long conference seeks to facilitate transformational leadership development training, facilitate conversations about sustainable solutions, and public policy creation workshops. The aim is to see government leaders empowered to transform their nation towards sustainable prosperity. 

This year’s conference focused on ‘Keys for National Leadership’, with presentations on the importance of the rule of law, West African Security, Educational Legislation, Keys for Economic Development, Investing in Education, Values and Public Policy: Human Rights and Disability, Gulf States Stability, and on Leadership, Morality and Values. 

During the week, the Sheikh of Bahrain came to discuss interfaith dialogue, and how to push back on terrorism in the middle east with a unified voice. The conference had presentations from Parliamentarians from Afghanistan, Nepal and various African countries.

Under the tutorage of Dr. Jerry Regier – former Secretary under the Bush Administration – we were taken through a series of workshops on Public Policy Analysis and Development, including strategic thinking for implementing public policy, implementation guidance and public policy making for public officials. 

It was a true privilege to present my public policy initiative for the Austral-Asia region on curbing the demand of human trafficking, based on international best practice standards, on the last day. 

There are currently 36 million known slaves in the world today, 2 million of which are children. 78% of these slaves, are in the Austral-Asia region. Australia is a developed nation, surrounded by developing economies For this reason, we have a great responsibility in ensuring that we alleviate the occurrence of human trafficking, ensuring that e have a legislative and law enforcement regional cooperation, and that we are adhering to the international standards against trafficking. 

The Nordic Model is the international best practice model for curbing human trafficking, and has been instituted by various nations, including the Nordic Countries, but most recently, in Canada, France and Ireland. 

This policy initiative seeks to protect the victims of human trafficking while curbing the demand for this horrific international crime. 

I was able to take questions from the floor, as a way of discussing the implementation of such a regional policy motion, and what the impediments or unintended consequences may be to such a policy initiative.  

The conference is truly unique and necessary for regional cooperation and for supporting capacity building opportunities in the developing wold. Australia, as a developed Nation is surrounded by developing economies, and holds a great responsibility in partnering with, supporting and encouraging growth, sustainability and alleviating poverty, which is often a contributing factor to such international crimes as human trafficking. 

I would like to formally thank Senator Cory Bernadi and the support of the Conservative Leadership Foundation, who believe in and invests into future leaders, giving us opportunities to spread our wings and practice our skills and talents. If you are not already aware of the mentoring offered by the Conservative Leadership Foundation, I encourage you to contact them.

What is the purpose of the Geneva Institute for Leadership and Public Policy and how does it assist young people and their development?

As above 

How long have you been speaking at public events for? What topics and issues are you passionate about and are looking to address?

For 15 years now, I have been advocating through speaking at public events, seminars and workshops, particularly at conferences. 

My research presentations have included talking about mental illness, disabilities, the inequality the indigenous in our community face, on the rights of women and children, gender equality issues, legal research on the trafficking of persons, the persecution of minority Christians who have been displaced by conflict, and the plight of refugees. 

Currently, I am working on a few National Taskforces to see legislation passed that will curb the demand for trafficked persons here in Australia. 

I continue to speak at conferences on various social justice and human rights issues – and can be booked in here: www.andreatokaji.com 

How has the Conservative Leadership Foundation been able to assist you?

I am truly grateful for the support of Senator Cory Bernardi and the Conservative Leadership Foundation in sponsoring me to attend the Geneva Institute for Leadership and Public Policy. 

Through this experience, I was not only able to sit under some great conservative tutors on public policy and leadership, but also to have the opportunity to present an international best practice model that would curb human trafficking in the Austral-Asia region. 

Without the financial assistance of the Conservative Leadership Foundation, I would not have been able to go. 

My confidence as a public presenter, my exposure to international networks and opportunities, and the advocacy for trafficked persons has all benefited from my recent trip to Geneva. 

How can other young people better get experience in public speaking? Do you have any tips for those just starting out?

For aspiring public speakers, I would say: 

  1. Find out what you are really passionate about, and get really good at it. 
  2. Surround yourself with mentors in the field, and volunteer your time in the subject matter, with the aim of becoming an expert. 
  3. Be a visionary – don’t be afraid to dream big in your are of interest – and be innovative – come up with creative solutions. 
  4. Put your hand up to sit on Boards, Committees, and jump at the chance to speak, research, to write someone else’s speeches or to organisae events where you will be exposed to subject matter experts. 
  5. Know who you are – and know what you want to achieve – a good public speaker is genuine, and can speak from the heart, and speak from experience. 
  6. Be at the right place at the right time – go to conferences, network, and go to dinners. 
  7. Have clear goals – don’t be afraid to be ambitious and put yourself out there. 
  8. Don’t be afraid of hard work. Embrace long hours and the opportunity to learn. 
  9. Be true to yourself, and don’t compromise your values. 
  10. Pursue integrity, truth and justice – your character is the most attractive thing about you, and the first thing that shines through. 

How do you believe we can further promote the conservative cause in Australia?

I believe in the pursuit of beauty, truth and goodness. I believe we should always seek justice, to do goodness, and to try and to walk in humility. 

I believe in entrepreneurialism, in creativity, in self education, but also the importance of formal academia. I support small business, innovation and self empowerment. 

As a refugee child who grew up under a Communist regime, I value the rights, the freedoms and the dignity of all persons. I believe in the family as the central structure to any society, and I believe in equal opportunity. 

I believe, that – if you put your mind to it, you can achieve anything – despite your environment, your circumstances, and despite a lack of resources or support. I am a testament to this. 

I believe that the integrity and character of a person is more important than their title or resources that they retain, and that a person’s integrity and character can take them farther than their qualifications. 

As a true conservative, I believe in healthy change, which comes after weighing up the consequences and looking at a problem from every angle, debating each side, so that we get the best outcome possible. I also believe in the value of holding on to tradition. 

I am also very social justice oriented, volunteering my time to various human rights causes, and seek to give back to the Country that gave me so much – my freedom.

What programs do you wish the CLF offered young conservatives?

I was recently at a United Nations Women’s event, where the ‘Progress of the World’s Women’ Report 2015-2016 was presented. The report reveals, that, as it currently stands, no nation in the world has reached employment equality for women. No Nation. In any profession. 

I think equality of women in the work place is particularly difficult in Politics. 

As a Liberal Party Member, who has run for parliament in the ACT in 2008, has completed an intensive political philosophy course, and aspires to be a female politician within the Liberal Party – seeking to achieve the greatest level of service for my community, I truly wish that the Liberal Party would institute a quota for women in Parliament, and to have serious mentoring programs on offer for those women. 

World Bank Data lays out the proportion of seats held by women in National Parliaments – with Australia at only 26%, with even Afghanistan superseding these statistics – embarrassingly. 

I also hope that CLF would give more young conservatives the opportunity to attend the Geneva Institute for Leadership and Public Policy Conference into the future, as it is an annual conference, and a wonderful opportunity to learn, contribute and network on the international level. 

How can we better defend our conservative values? 

The defence of our conservative values can only occur if we are certain of who we are, what we believe in, and if we progress as a united front, choosing only the most crucial battles to fight, and not being distracted by unnecessary banter. 

There are so many freedoms and rights that are worth fighting for, and indeed, many have died for the freedoms and rights that we enjoy today. 

The defence of any values or beliefs comes down to strong leadership, articulate communication, and a rallying of support from the masses. This form of uncompromising leadership often requires sacrifice. 

A recent New York Times article noted that ‘[a]cademic research has found that generations do indeed have ideological identities, shaped by events as they first become aware of the world, starting as young as 10 years old. The article goes on to note that teenagers in America are showing signs of becoming more conservative, given the generational nature of politics. 

Perhaps these trends also follow here in Australia. 

Perhaps we could capture this trend, taking advantage by providing mentoring, seminar and conference opportunities for like-minded conservatives – encouraging them to sign up, register and commit to being a part of initiatives such as the CFL.

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