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Amnesty Speech for ‘Voice Our Concern’ The Importance of Arts Education in Human Rights

I’m going to start out by introducing myself- hello. My name is Triona Brick. In my transition year in Mercy Secondary school Mounthawk, Tralee in 2006, I worked on a short human rights film centring around the experience for an immigrant in Ireland. I worked on this with an inspiring teacher called Mr. Redican, Amnesty International, and renowned Irish Director of ‘Hotel Rwanda’, Terry George. The experience influenced me to go on to study a BA in Communications Studies, and MA in Film and Television Studies, both at DCU. For the past two years, I have been the media manager of The Freshly Squeezed International Student Short Film Festival, a festival that has the importance of arts education at its core. Freshly Squeezed nurtures young film-makers by giving them somewhere to screen their work and in doing so, recognition and praise. We crowd-funded the project so that both submitting and attendance are completely free of charge, and therefore open to everyone. Upon completion of the MA, I went on to work in a human rights organisation: GLEN- The Gay and Lesbian Equality Network. As GLEN’s social media manager, I am in the thick of one of the most important human rights movements of my generation on a daily basis. There are infinite kinds of arts education, and infinite human rights issues, but my speech will centre around my own personal experiences of media arts education and of LGBT rights activism.

The first step in any process is seeing the possibility of a good result. Before you speak you must feel like you’ll at least be heard, hopefully listened to and respected. I was the youngest in a family of three. Growing up, it wasn’t always easy to feel listened to when I was always seen as the kid. In school you are assigned a similar role. You are the student, there to listen, not to speak. We’ve all had those inspiring teachers whose classes we looked forward to going to and who taught us life long lessons. But in my experience, those teachers were more often the exception than the rule. And even those teachers were confined by an educational system that does not encourage students to have a voice. To feel confidence in their opinions. To think critically. To challenge the culture around them. To realise that they don’t always have to accept what they’re told. I grew up in Kerry, which, when I was growing up, was still staunchly Catholic. Which meant accepting what you’re told was part and parcel of my education. This was in a time when access to different cultures and different ways of thinking was not just the click of a button away. While we had the mediums of film and television, these were seen as a bit of fun, nothing to be taken too seriously. Certainly not something to be studied. When I did my Leaving Cert, filling out your CAO form was all about how good the courses would be at getting you a job.
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