Raise Our Voice in Parliament – Education

Imagine the impact when politicians across the nation commit to echoing the concerns and aspirations of our younger generations, speaking their words on the issues that matter most to them.

Let us introduce you to the Raise Our Voice in Parliament initiative.

It’s where the future of Australia meets the present in a collaboration fuelled by passion and purpose, allowing young Australians to be the architects of change. Through collaboration and advocacy, the initiative strives to pave the way for a brighter, more inclusive Australia.

In classic WhyNot style, we love any opportunity to amplify voices and have created a space on our platform for a 5-part series to ensure the voices of the 2023 Raise Our Voice in Parliament campaign are heard.

Help make their voices loud and become a catalyst for progress and transformation.

Content Warning

The following Raise our Voice in Parliament speeches may contain themes that might be difficult to read or triggering to some readers. Readers in need can visit our Creating a Safe Space page to see a full list of support services.

 

My name is Amelie, I’m 19 years old and I’m from a town called Mansfield in regional Victoria, within the Indi electorate.

I’ve lived in Mansfield my whole life and finished my schooling there last year. Going to school regionally meant that I could go skiing every Wednesday in term 3 at high school, I spent many excursions walking along the Great Victorian rail trail, hiking up Mt Stirling, tubing in the Howqua River, and looking out at Mt Buller from my classroom window every maths class.

Going to school regionally also meant that I had a graduating class of 33 VCE students. My teachers taught multiple other classes, there were no local tutors for all of my subjects, and I had to use distance education to be able to complete the course I wanted to.

Regional kids face so many barriers in VCE and attending university, and it isn’t fair.

We don’t all hear from speakers from universities at school, we don’t have careers expos near us, and we don’t have tutors or an abundance of teachers to help us excel in our studies. We’re given so many ‘regional guarantees’ to get into uni with lower marks – but why are we just assuming that regional kids can’t get the same marks as metro kids?

It is vital that more funding is allocated to regional education, particularly for senior years. We need more career education, more highly skilled teachers, and more support. With extra funding and a higher focus on rural education to level the field, there’s potential that the special access schemes might not be necessary.

I’ve finished my schooling now, so this isn’t a change for me. It’s a change for the kids who don’t have a teacher for a term because their school can’t find anyone to hire. The kids whose literature class is only funded by their school for 4 out of 6 required periods each week. The kids who have never been to any universities because their parents didn’t go and their school doesn’t take them.

Everyone deserves the opportunity to do well in school, including regional kids.

Words by Amelie 

 

A while ago, my class was asked to name Australia’s Prime Minister. The majority were unable to. Then, we were shown a picture of Anthony Albanese beside the French President. Even fewer knew who our Prime Minister was.

Now, for some, this paucity of political engagement stems from factors largely out of their control, such as a low socioeconomic status. However, many young people choose to stay blissfully unaware of politics. This is particularly salient for Australia’s democracy, where each vote determines the entire country’s future. It is clear young people’s inadequate involvement in politics will merely beget further democratic failure.

The Mitchell Institute has found that 60% of students from low socioeconomic backgrounds finish school, compared to 90% among those from wealthy backgrounds. For a sustained improvement in young Australia’s political awareness, our government has a duty to provide proper education to all Australians. Over time, this will create a more politically engaged community, as education is almost without exception the strongest factor behind what citizens do in politics.

Through educating ourselves, our democratic process will have rhyme and reason, no longer thriving off of clueless Australians picking the party highest on the ballot paper.

Words by Anirudh 

 

My Name is Justin, I’m 16 years old and from the Federal Bradfield electorate.

It was 8 years ago when I met my year 3 teacher. He was a cheerful man motivated for us to learn, best remembered for his endless enthusiasm. He was infamous for setting the hardest math questions, yet never missed an opportunity to play ball games with us. He was stern and strict but never failed to greet us during recess and lunch. For the twenty odd students in his class, it was an unforgettable year, and a cornerstone for education to come.

However, amidst a national teaching shortage, I discovered just last year that our beloved teacher had moved careers, with wages and hours I could only imagine were more flexible. Moving into year 12, I had wanted to come back one day and share my gratitude; something that was not a possibility anymore.

Great teachers and potential teachers are neglecting opportunities across the education sector, a detriment to objectives. Regardless of the means, politics, and resources, us, as young Australians, ask for educational reform, for the better of our future.

Words by Justin. Read aloud in Parliament by Paul Fletcher MP.

 

Investing in education from early childhood to tertiary levels is essential for future generations.

Teaching future generations to also regulate emotions, adapt to unfamiliar situations, and participate in healthy civil debates early on, free from prejudice and peer pressure, is a great way to support their physical and personal development.

And as social media dominates modern communication, creating an app that encourages Australians to discover new passions and interests while promoting mental health awareness and well-being, humanitarianism, peaceful conflict resolution, and respect for others would improve relationships that could help Australians connect with others and express their ideas or concerns within their community.

A Parliament-approved social app that promotes education and lifelong learning for all ages and focuses on social and community issues such as:

  • Economic and financial issues,
  • Social, cultural, and humanitarian issues,
  • Issues related to the environmental and climate crises.

It would enable people to collaborate toward a shared objective while respectfully debating their points of view in one place.

A custom app authorised by Parliament that provides accurate information on various topics, curriculums, and policies, and encourages public sharing of diverse perspectives could benefit and assist future generations.

Focusing on education in communication, understanding people, and differentiating between true and false information could be a change Australia makes to support future generations.

Words by Madison 

 

I am an 18-year-old in year 12 at a school in the electorate of Hotham, and I can’t get over the inequality in the way we fund our schools.

The fact that most government schools are underfunded while at the same time most independent schools are overfunded. That is just absurd and unjust, no matter which way you cut it. We have it backwards. We should be supporting our most underprivileged school communities first, not throwing money at wealthy schools first. We should be funding every single government school at a *minimum* standard before we even think about dishing out bonus gifts to those that don’t need it.

We are undermining the system by pushing families – who can afford it – and teachers into the non-government sector. This cycle entrenches intergenerational poverty, as government school conditions get lower and lower and the exodus of families from the system gets greater and greater.

Making sure every school gets even just minimum funding. It is such a basic idea. We deserve it. Every single one of us, no matter which school we go to, has the right to the opportunity to make this world a better place for future generations. That world starts at school.

Words by R 

 

I raise my voice as a refugee, compelled to address a pressing issue that demands our immediate attention: the rampant racism within our schools. Every child deserves an education free from discrimination, prejudice, and hatred. Unfortunately, racism has found its way into our educational institutions, tainting the learning environment, and traumatising young minds.

To combat this, we must implement comprehensive anti-racism programs that promote tolerance, inclusivity, and empathy. It is crucial to educate both students and teachers about the harmful effects of racism and equip them with the tools to recognize and address it. Establishing safe spaces where students can share their experiences and concerns will foster dialogue and understanding.

Furthermore, curriculum reforms should incorporate diverse perspectives, histories, and cultures, eradicating the ignorance that perpetuates racism. By embracing our differences, we can help students appreciate the richness of human diversity.

I implore this esteemed Parliament to allocate resources to train educators, develop appropriate teaching materials, and establish protocols for reporting and addressing racist incidents. Let us work collectively to ensure that our schools become beacons of tolerance, where every child, regardless of their background, can learn and grow without fear of discrimination.

Together, we can dismantle the roots of racism within our education system and pave the way for a brighter, harmonious future for all.

Words by Somaya. Read aloud in Parliament by Cassandra Fernando MP.

 

 

My name is Tully, and I am 15 years old, currently residing in the electorate of Ryan, Brisbane/Meanjin.

Previously, I lived in Gladstone, Queensland, where a lack of extracurricular activities (excluding sport, which I am unable to participate in due to health issues.) left me feeling isolated and often powerless.

The voices of regional youth often go unheard, with limited opportunities beyond sports. Thankfully, my move to Brisbane has opened doors to exciting activities like Model UN and advocacy work, transforming my mental well-being and enhancing my resume. It’s unfair and unjust that rural youth miss out on such opportunities, creating isolation and possibly limiting their future prospects.

Regional voices deserve to be heard, and equal access to extracurricular activities can bridge this gap. For Australia to become a truly equitable and just society, we must ensure that all youth, regardless of their geographical location, have an equal starting point.

Currently, children in major cities have an obvious advantage, which is integrally unfair. It’s essential that we allocate funding to regional towns to establish extracurricular humanities opportunities for young people. By doing so, we can level the playing field and provide access to the same enriching experiences available to their urban counterparts. This investment not only promotes fairness but also harnesses the untapped potential of regional youth, creating a brighter and more equitable future for all Australians.

Words by Tully. Read aloud in Parliament by Senator Green.

 

My name is Victor, I am a 16-year-old high school student. I live in the Kurrajong electorate.

Coming from a middle income, immigrant family, I am extremely fortunate to attend a great school. My parents have always believed that education is the key to personal development and future successes. However, not everyone receives the same privileges that I do.

Australia’s education system is letting down the most vulnerable. The average Indigenous student is more than two years behind the average non-Indigenous student. Despite overwhelming recommendations from the Human Rights Commission and the Human Rights Watch, this statistic has not changed since 2021.

We often say that today’s students are tomorrow’s leaders. They represent our future problem-solvers, policymakers and innovative-thinkers.

If you agree, why are First Nations’ children – the most vulnerable members of our society – still being deprived of access to basic educational needs?

Quality education should not depend on the postcode in which a child lives or the size of their parents’ bank account. Every child deserves access to well-funded schools, well-trained teachers and a curriculum that prepares them for the challenges of the modern world. Education should be a right, not a privilege.

It is time that we listen to our children. We would like parliament to consider young voices when forming legislation around Indigenous education. We want to be heard. We want to be supported. We want more engaging conversations so Indigenous communities can actively voice their opinions and shape the direction of policies that affect their futures.

Words by Victor 

 

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