More than 10,000 miles from Shropshire, a small group of islands in the Pacific ocean are battling for official recognition by the United Nations – and a former Telford College student is at the heart of the campaign. Ben Brickley, from Broseley, became the youngest ever executive board member of the London-based political think-tank Parliament Street, when he was appointed in December 2017.
One of his first major tasks has been to work with officials from the Norfolk Islands, a former British colony between Australia and New Zealand, on their campaign for recognition. The islands are currently part of Australia, but residents want to be recognised as an independent nation with political links to New Zealand, like the Cook Islands.
Ben said: “I have helped Norfolk Islands in their campaign for self-determination by going with them to the United Nations Court of Human Rights, helping represent their case so that they can have a voice in the international community. The case is currently being discussed.
“There is hope for the people of the Norfolk Islands – hope that they can keep their cultural identity, hope that they can negotiate a deal with New Zealand, and hope that they can once again form a government to lead the islands towards a brighter future.
“Myself and the rest of Parliament Street will be working tirelessly to support and promote the Norfolk Islands in order to make this future possible.”
He added: “Over the last few years I have had the pleasure of seeing and understanding the unique and beautiful culture of the Islands. It is a mixture of two cultures, which brings together the Tahitian and English history of the island.
“A lot of current residents have British ancestry, which is why the people of the Norfolk Islands should not be ignored by the United Kingdom.
“With Brexit negotiations ongoing, we should be looking towards a new image for Britain, and show the international community that we will stand up for the self-determination of others, just like we have done for ourselves.”
Norfolk Islands are the not the only overseas territories on Ben’s radar. In addition to his Parliament Street position, he is also a British overseas territories adviser to the European parliament, and policy officer for the government of Gibraltar.
It is all a far cry from the public services courses which 23-year-old Ben completed at Telford College before heading to university – but he says they taught him some key skills which he still uses today.
“I believe that the public services qualification at Telford College gave me the discipline needed to pursue my ambitions,” he said.
“The values of this course, and the ability of tutors to push students to their full potential, have helped shape and guide me to the path that I am currently on.”