Taking Student Voice from Maryborough to Edinburgh

by | Nov 27, 2019 | Bush Voices

From Maryborough to Edinburgh

It was her mother’s advice to “always give things a go” that prompted Maryborough student and CEP Rural Youth Ambassador, Caitlin Britten, to apply for a scholarship to attend the fifth International Conference on Law Enforcement and Public Health (LEPH) in Edinburgh, Scotland.

Never did she imagine what a prodigious experience it would be, and that something that sounded “so cut-and-dry” would turn out to be “shockingly informative and particularly emotional”.

It’s now been a month since the 17-year-old returned from her whirlwind trip and, she says, she’s still trying to find the right words to truly capture what an experience it was.

“Oh, it was just so much more than I ever thought it would be; Scotland
was incredibly beautiful to visit, and then the conference was just … it was just something else,” she said.

“I’m so thankful that I listened to my Mum and took the time to apply for the scholarship when it came up.”

The scholarship was created by former Maryborough resident Dr Melissa Jardine who, through an incredible career in policing, now sits on the Board of Directors for the Global Law Enforcement and Public Health Association, among many other titles she holds.

It’s been a long while since Dr Jardine actually lived in Maryborough, but she remains proud of her hometown and is determined to help address its enduring reputation for generational disadvantage, unemployment and welfare gaps.

Dr Jardine initiated the Maryborough scholarship in 2016, enabling two
female Year 11 students from the Maryborough Education Centre to attend the international LEPH conference.

Her aim was to create “an educational and cultural experience … offering exposure to professional career pathways that relate to issues such as domestic violence, drug use and ill mental health”.

One of the scholarship’s inaugural recipients was recently named Best First Year Human Rights Student at Monash University — an achievement Caitlin hopes to one day emulate.

 “I think what’s so great about this scholarship is that it’s specifically for Maryborough and it’s one way of showing what kids from this town are capable of if they’re given the chance,” she said.

“I know I’m lucky because I come from a loving and supportive family, which is something many kids around here don’t have but, yeah, I think my experience helps to … change the narrative around what people from Maryborough can do.”

This year the conference looked at ways to contribute to the achievement of “overcoming marginalisation through community”.

Caitlin, and her fellow Maryborough Learning Centre student, Rose McNabb, centred their presentation around the subject of adverse childhood experiences.

“We have a lot of people living in poverty in Maryborough — a lot of kids with drug or alcohol addicted parents — so we made our presentation around how that affects a child for the rest of their life … and how that links to generational issues like poor education, low aspirations and unemployment,” Caitlin said.

“It was a really big step for us to get up and talk in front of a room full
of senior, professional people; it was daunting but rewarding because they were so encouraging and we’ve now made many professional links that could help us in our future careers,” she said.

“I was fortunate because, through my experience this year as a CEP Rural Youth Ambassador talking to government ministers and so forth, I had some confidence about how to properly engage with, you know, important people … but I was still pretty nervous.”

Caitlyn and Rose have this week re-enacted their presentation before their School Council and it’s something they hope to continue.

“The two girls from last year’s scholarship program are still doing their
presentation all around Victoria before all sorts of people and groups,” Caitlin said.

“It’s a big commitment but I hope we can do the same.

(See a summary of Caitlyn and Rose’s LEPH presentation HERE)