RYA: Student Voice in Canberra

by | Mar 1, 2021 | Bush Voices, News | 0 comments

From places as far as Streaky Bay in SA, Alstonville in northern NSW, and Yanakie in Victoria, 18 rural and remote young Australians travelled to Canberra to meet with Federal Ministers and education officials to share their thoughts  on rural and remote education across Australia. Over the course of three days, they attended several meetings to speak on behalf of their peers all over the country. 

The National Forum was the final outcome of a year-long leadership program delivered by the Country Education Partnership (CEP) across South Australia, New South Wales and Victoria. The program aims to develop leadership skills of rural and remote young people, while also providing a formal, national voice for rural students on issues affecting their education and communities. 

The Ambassadors arrived in Canberra on Tuesday afternoon after a long day of travelling from the various rural communities across the three states.

By Wednesday the 18 young people had arrived in the nation’s capital and the inaugural National Forum began.

Day one began at Parliament House where the Ambassadors met with Minister Tehan, his chief of Staff and advisor. The group shared their stories, ideas and a proposal with the Minister and his staff. 

Maddie, Cordy, Tayla and Samantha were part of the group who attended the meeting with Minister Tehan. 

“We discussed schools working together, mental health, and after school information,” they said.

“We really valued the passion and support we got from Minister Tehan. His support of Rural Inspire was amazing.” 

After this meeting, the Ambassadors spent time with their respective local politicians. They had discussions about their local areas, and shared with their representatives details of the national forum and their proposals. 

Education State Forum

Jordan, Naomi, Harry, Cordy and Tayla (left to right) working on their presentation in Canberra. Image: CEP

Phil Brown, Country Education Partnership’s CEO facilitated many of the meetings throughout the day. 

“It was great to see the Rural Youth Ambassadors take up so many opportunities throughout the day,” he said. 

“The presentations they made, the relationships they built with local politicians and the response they got from Ministers, was all exceptional,” 

The final meeting of the day was with Minister Gee, Minister for Decentralisation and Regional Education. The ambassadors again told their stories and proposed their ideas to the Minister. 

“We were really happy and honoured for this opportunity and looking forward to the rest of the trip,” they said. 

“Minister Gee has asked us to provide more detail about our ideas so he can take it to the Department of Education, Skills and Employment & the National Education Council.” 

The day concluded with dinner by Lake Burley Griffin where the group reflected on their experiences of the day. 

Mr Brown was pleased with the outcomes of the day. 

“The Ministers asking for Rural Youth Ambassadors to provide documentation of their ideas was a real acknowledgement of the work all the 2020 Rural Youth Ambassadors have done, from all three states.” 

Rural Youth Ambassadors with the Hon Minister Gee at Parilament House. Image: CEP

CEP Education Forum

Rural Youth Ambassaors with the Hon Minister Tudge and the Hon Minister Howarth at Parliament House last Thursday. Image: CEP

Day 2 began with a meeting with Robbie Beale from the National Careers Institute (NCI). Mrs Beale consulted the Ambassadors for feedback on the NCI’s delivery of “Your Career” information across the nation. A discussion followed and the ambassadors shared ideas about how delivering this information to school leavers in Australia could look in the future.

The second meeting of the day was with Kristy Van Oome and Marie Schneider from the Regional University department. The group discussed how the Country University Network could best support rural and remote young people to attend universities in rural communities. 

After lunch the ambassadors met with Education Minister the Hon Alan Tudge and The Assistant Minister for Youth and Employment Services the Hon Luke Howart. Ambassadors Naomi Gerrard and Ben Caughey believed the meeting was impactful. 

“They were both very impressed with our presentation,” they said,  “and we are optimistic they will take our ideas on board and want to work with us again.” 

Although supervised by CEP staff the Ambassadors facilitated the discussion on their own.

Phil Brown, CEO of Country Education Partnership, attended the meeting with the Ambassadors. 

“It was great to see their ideas acknowledged and encouraged through the positive response expressed by the Ministers,” he said. 

Rural Youth Ambassadors in their meeting with the Hon Minister Tudge and the Hon Minister Howarth at Parliament House last Thursday. Image: CEP.

CEP Education Forum

Rural Youth Ambassaors outside Parliament House last Wednesday. Image: CEP

Over the course of the three days, each of the Rural Youth Ambassadors met with their respective local MPs who were in Canberra for parliament.  They had discussions about their local areas, and shared with their representatives details of the national forum and their proposals. 

Phil Brown, Country Education Partnership’s CEO facilitated many of the meetings throughout the day. 

“It was great to see the Rural Youth Ambassadors take up so many opportunities throughout the day,” he said. 

“The presentations they made, the relationships they built with local politicians and the response they got from Ministers, was all exceptional.” 

Day three involved a tour of the University of Canberra campus, and a conversation with members of the Rural Education & Communities research group out of the Centre for Sustainable Communities. Followed by a video conference with members of the National School Resourcing Board where the Ambassadors once again shared their ideas about how to support mental health in schools, and how schools in local geographic areas could better service their students by working together and sharing resources. 

By Midday the meetings were finished and the Rural Youth Ambassadors started their various journeys home.

Cordy Lloyd, a Rural Youth Ambassador from Guyra in NSW reflected on the experience.

“In the next few days, we hope to have our ideas circulating around in Parliament House and even for some of these ideas to begin the process of being implemented,” she said. 

“This program has also enabled us to find like-minded individuals that share our passion and initiative for providing a better world for young people living in rural Australia.”

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