National Forum gives young, rural Australians a voice

Claire back second from left
Claire back second from left

From places as far as Streaky Bay in SA, Alstonville in northern NSW, and Yanakie in Victoria, 18 rural and remote young Australians, including Canowindra's Claire Wright, 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 a Tuesday afternoon after a long day of travelling from 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.

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,"

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.

"It was pretty special when it was announced I got accepted into the program," Ms Wright said.

"My year advisor has been incredibly supportive; she's helped me out with sorting out homework and stuff while I've been in Canberra and she was the one that pushed me to be a part of the program to begin with."

"When we were in Canberra we had to introduce three main ideas to ministers that were prevalent issues in schools across the country - it was pretty nerve wracking!"

"The first idea we came up with was getting schools to work collaboratively across the region to allow student access to more subjects with one teacher working across five schools - just learning solely online isn't the way we want to go."

"The second idea was around both preventative and informative measures surrounding mental health in schools.

"We really want to push that everyone: parents, teachers and students, need to be better educated on mental health so we can recognise when our fellow students need further help rather than just employing reactive measures straight away like counselling."

"A lot of students will react and learn a lot better from youth to youth learning, because it really comes from the heart.

"The final idea basically centered around getting kids more information, through things like expos, pamphlets and travelling road shows, on career paths post school - we want to push the fact it isn't all about your ATAR, because we want school to be a safe space for all students regardless of what they want to achieve in life.

Claire isn't sure exactly what direction her career takes from here, but she is determined to make a difference.

"I will likely do a degree in Agriculture and Business Management, but either way I just know I want to make a difference in rural Australia," Ms Wright said.

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