In 2020 we have three state groups of Rural Youth Ambassadors, Victoria, South Australia and New South Wales. Already they have held several online forums and began working on improving youth aspirations and the learning experiences of rural and remote students in their communities.
Ambassadors meet with the Commonwealth Minister for Education
Earlier this month our Rural Youth Ambassadors spoke with the Honorable Dan Tehan – Federal Minister for Education. He met (online) with ambassadors from South Australia, Victoria and New South Wales.
The Ambassadors began the conversation by reporting on the projects they have been developing in their separate states to enhance rural youth aspirations and learning. These covered issues such as rural youth mental health, teacher training in digital communication technologies, broadening subject selection amongst rural schools by resource sharing and providing information on the options after they finish their schooling.
Following this a number of ambassadors shared their stories, perspectives and reflections on
rural education and the ongoing challenges rural and remote students face in 2020 as a result of drought, bushfires and the COVID-19 pandemic.
The minister was incredibly responsive to what our ambassadors had to say and offered his support where possible. He also acknowledged the fantastic work the ambassadors are doing in raising youth aspirations in their communities.
‘Given what we’ve been through this year across the nation, the whole idea of Rural Inspire is probably as important as it has ever been….Our students confront challenges that none of us expected at the beginning of the year. What all of us have to do is make sure that we re-emphasise to everyone who is studying, to everyone who has a dream of going to university that they should still aspire to fulfil those dreams.
To all the ambassadors, continue to inspire young people from rural Australia to aspire to reach their goals and in particular aim for that higher education which can bring so much to their lives and so much to the communities they are living in. Keep up the fantastic work.’
Rural Youth Ambassadors meet with Commonwealth Minister for Education
Victorian Rural Youth Ambassadors
So far the Victorian cohort have met five times. During these online forums they have focused their efforts on developing teacher capacity to engage with youth-friendly communication technology. They believe this will improve the learning experience of rural and remote students and provide them with the opportunity to have access to a broader learning experience. The ambassadors have seen across their communities that some teachers are not fully harnessing available digital teaching technologies, or not having yet learned how to best engage with them.
Their project in development aims to provide teachers with an efficient way of teaching during remote learning (and beyond), easing teacher workload and ensuring student learning is the best it can be. They aim to make the teaching and learning experience more efficient and less stressful for all involved.
They hope to achieve this by holding a conference-like event that will provide teachers with opportunities for further learning in digital technologies.
Several of the 2020 Victorian cohort of Rural Youth Ambassadors.
South Australian Rural Youth Ambassadors
The South Australian Ambassadors have come together for five online forums. They are focusing their work on encouraging the government and education sectors in supporting partnerships between rural schools. By promoting teacher and resource sharing, and supporting schools working together to share education programs they hope to widen learning opportunities for students.
They hope to improve the learning experience of rural students and teachers. By promoting teacher movement between schools they believe that there can be a wider subject offering between multiple school communities. Additionally creating a system that allows students to learn other subjects that aren’t available at their school.
The South Australian Ambassadors are also exploring the potential of offering information sessions, through webinars, for rural and remote young people to hear from their peers who are now involved in further study or work after finishing school. Sharing information on what university is like, how do you get accommodation if you need to move, and what support is available are some of the areas they would like to explore.
Some of the SA Rural Youth Ambassadors meeting on the digital platform iSee. Led by CEP intern Charlotte Nixon (top right).
New South Wales Rural Youth Ambassadors
The NSW collective have recently met for the first time. They spent their time unpacking exactly what they wanted to focus on this year which covered a range of areas such as not having the breadth of learning they would like to have access to, the difficulty of distance learning, mental wellbeing of rural young people, the difficulty of recruiting and keeping good teachers, and supporting young people who have different backgrounds.
Through extensive discussions, they narrowed their ideas down to their top two issues they would like to focus on: mental health and quality teacher recruitment and retention.
The NSW ambassadors are made up of around 30 students from across the state. They have been very engaged in the program so far and have thrown themselves into all tasks.
Several of the NSW Rural Youth Ambassadors at their first online forum.