FOR Emma Jane Ryan, the long weekend wasn't so much about rest and relaxation. Rather, it was an extra day to spread the word on ending poverty.
As a group leader of Oaktree Foundation ambassadors, Ms Ryan has been playing an important role in raising awareness for the Roadtrip to End Poverty campaign, which culminated in a region-wide forum in Lilydale on Sunday.
The 21-year-old Lilydale resident phoned schools and sent out flyers in preparation for the forum, which was run by the ambassadors themselves.
"When I was in high school learning about other countries, it was troubling to learn about their struggles and the inequalities," Ms Ryan said of why she got involved.
"I wanted to have my voice heard and help others who are less fortunate."
The Roadtrip to End Poverty is an awareness-based campaign that aims to demonstrate community support for a rise in the foreign aid budget to 0.7 per cent of gross national income by the year 2020. Currently, just 0.36 per cent GNI in Australia is given in foreign aid.
Victoria has about 260 of the ambassadors, split into five different routes with each travelling through different key electorates and hosting political events, community actions and workshops.
Sunday's political forum in Lilydale had a panel of five guest speakers, including federal MP Tony Smith, Evelyn MP Christine Fyffe and Greens Senate candidate Janet Rice discussing their thoughts on Australia's foreign aid contribution.
Over in Croydon, a less formal community support event was held. Ambassadors, including Ringwood East's Holly Trenegeza, were at Croydon Memorial Pool liaising with visitors and cooking pancakes. "Our role as ambassadors is to talk to people and explain the issue," Holly, 16, said. "About 70 of us were there talking about poverty, and cooking for everybody."
Holly, who attends Ringwood Secondary College, is vocal in her thinking on poverty.
"It's something I want to see changed in my generation," she says. "I think we can eradicate extreme poverty in our lifetime. We are the first generation that can make a difference."
To sign to the Roadtrip to End Poverty petition or become involved with the Oaktree Foundation, visit theoaktree.org