Monash Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Laws student Mr Chris Varney is a passionate advocate for child rights and poverty reduction and a strong and effective voice for these causes at the University.
Mr Varney began his campaigning as a Youth Ambassador for World Vision Australia. At the age of 16 he travelled to Tanzania to see World Vision's response to HIV and AIDS. For the next six years he served in a variety of volunteer ambassadorial and leadership roles in Vision Generation (VGen), World Vision's youth movement, including Victorian State Director and National Co-Director.
He has been responsible for empowering World Vision youth campaigners and their networks to support World Vision's advocacy asks on the Millennium Development Goals and child rights.
This has involved movement-building, including public speaking, team management and mentoring, community engagement and political and corporate lobbying. He was an active leader in campaigns such as 'Make Poverty History' and 'Don't Trade Lives'.
Mr Varney was instrumental in establishing the Monash-World Vision Australia partnership – one of a select number of important partnerships the University has with top-tier NGOs. He has also mentored students who lead VGen on campus and helped build students' support for Monash to become a Fairtrade University and 'Child Health Now' community.
He has demonstrated a high level of commitment to the University in the sphere of leadership and has represented Monash in the American Australian Leadership Dialogue and delivered numerous motivational presentations to current and prospective Monash students.
As part of World Vision's Don't Trade Lives campaign, he travelled to India and Thailand to gain an insight into child exploitation and slavery. This helped him mobilise young Australians nation-wide to become ethical consumers. The combined efforts of Don't Trade Lives campaigners have successfully led to companies such as Cadbury Dairy Milk, Green and Black Chocolate, Arnotts and Mars making commitments to fair-trade production.
In 2009 Mr Varney was appointed Australian Youth Representative to the UN by the UN Youth Association and Australian Government. In this role, he organised a national youth engagement tour that reached 12, 200 children and young people and developed a collection of letters for then-Prime Minister Kevin Rudd.
As Youth Representative, Mr Varney's work contributed to the 20th Anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the creation of the 2011 International Year of Youth and Copenhagen Climate Conference. Mr Varney's efforts were recognised by a special message from UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, in which the Secretary-General commended the dedication of young Australians to global citizenship.
Upon returning from the UN, Mr Varney travelled around Australia to report back to the young people he had consulted. He has remained active with UN-related campaigns, including the 2010 UN Global Health Conference and Child Rights NGO Taskforce. In October this year, Mr Varney will travel to Geneva to report to the UN Child Rights Committee on child wellbeing in Australia.
Whilst completing his studies, Mr Varney is actively involved in Monash student initiatives and works part-time at World Vision.
Download a video presentation about Mr Varney: