Joshua Karras on becoming a young leader in Public Health

Joshua Karras portrait against a background of PHAA logos.

Joshua Karras, PHAA NSW Branch

I’m grateful to the PHAA team for inviting me to share some thoughts on my journey as an early career Public Health Scientist and how my co-curricular activities have shaped the emerging professional I am today. I do note my discomfort at completing such a task!

A topic that lies close to my heart is the profound impact of volunteering, networking, and following one’s passions, particularly in the field of public health. Throughout my journey, I have had the privilege of serving in various leadership positions at UNSW and beyond, and it is my sincere hope that by sharing my experiences, I can inspire and encourage others to make a difference in their communities.

The Power of Local Engagement

At the centre of any transformative change lies local engagement. As a member of the Greater Sydney Commission Board, president of the Postgraduate Council of UNSW and the Postgrad rep on UNSW Council, I have been entrusted with representing the voices of young individuals residing in eastern Sydney. This role has given me the opportunity to address crucial issues such as housing, youth unemployment, social justice, and urban sustainability. Through deep engagement and genuine collaboration with individuals from diverse backgrounds, I have witnessed first hand the immense value of community input in shaping the future development of our city. Volunteering locally not only allows us to make a tangible difference but also provides a unique opportunity to truly understand the challenges and aspirations of those we serve.

Building Networks for Collective Impact

Networking— a term often associated with business and professional growth— holds tremendous significance in the realm of public health leadership. Through my involvement with organisations like Multicultural NSW, the Australian Egyptian Youth Forum, and the Arab Council Australia, I have realised the power of connecting with individuals from different communities. These connections have paved the way for collaborations, knowledge sharing, and the pursuit of common goals in creating a healthier and more inclusive society.
In today’s interconnected world, forging networks that span cultural, geographical, and professional boundaries is vital. It allows us to tap into a wealth of diverse perspectives, expertise, and resources that can amplify the impact of our efforts. By actively engaging in networking opportunities, we expand our horizons, challenge our own biases, and develop a deeper understanding of the complex issues we seek to address.

Following Your Passion: A Catalyst for Change

I have learned early on that change within our community is fostered from within ourselves. It was through my own passion for eradicating stigma and fostering understanding that I founded Discover Disability. Our mission is rooted in empathy, honesty, levity, inclusivity, and boldness. Through engaging Q&A sessions designed to spark honest conversations, we aim to eliminate the stigma surrounding various disabilities.

This pursuit of passion has allowed us to create safe and interactive spaces where individuals can ask difficult questions without fear of judgment. By channelling the sentiments of close friendships, we foster a sense of belonging and understanding among participants. Witnessing the positive impact of our work, as over 500 individuals have benefited from our services to date, fills me with hope for a more inclusive and compassionate society.

Making a difference on national and international stages

While local engagement remains a cornerstone of public health initiatives, it is also essential to recognise the power of national and international involvement. As President of the Australian Egyptian Youth Forum, my co-founders and I embarked on a mission to bridge the gap between diverse communities by sharing cultures, religions, and traditions. This platform has allowed us to enhance intercultural relations and foster acceptance, contributing to social cohesion within Sydney’s multicultural fabric.

Similarly, serving as the Secretary of the Arab Council Australia has offered me the chance to advocate for incoming refugees and migrants. By assisting with initiatives aimed at fostering understanding and acceptance of Australian cultural characteristics, we strive to build a society that values and embraces diversity.

Fulfilling the role as the Executive Manager of the UN Association of Australia has provided a unique platform to promote the United Nations’ mission and Sustainable Development Goals. Through event and project management, I had the sincere joy of actively engaging with my community, country, and international counterparts to support initiatives that align with the UN’s vision for a better world.

Get involved wherever and however you can

Volunteering, networking, and pursuing one’s passions are not mere buzzwords; they are catalysts for meaningful change. From local to global contexts, each act of service, each connection made, and each step taken towards our passions contributes to building healthier and more equitable communities. I encourage those involved with the PHAA to embrace the power within us to effect positive change, one selfless act at a time. Together, we can create a future where everyone’s voice is heard, and public health thrives. I encourage you all to become familiar with the UN’s Sustainable Development Global Goals to learn where aid is needed most.

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