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Gayndah team selected to send student delegate to Canberra

A TEAM from Burnett State College in Gayndah has emerged triumphant from the 2019 South East Queensland Schools Constitutional Convention for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Students.

Dayne Dakin Mi-Mi, Sara Mealand, Kaiden Ratcliff and Sophie Shadford went to Brisbane on 11 September, accompanied by teacher aide Kathy Ratcliff and with the sponsorship support of local health and wellbeing organisation IWC. Students from across Queensland participated in debates and plebiscites during the event.

“On the day there were 32 schools, 128 students and 21 speeches. Of those 128 students, five were chosen to be Queensland’s Delegates for the annual National Schools Constitutional Convention, to be held in March next year,” said Mrs Ratcliff.

“Our team member Sophie Shadford was named as the fourth of the five delegates to represent Indigenous students at the National Convention. It was the students and only the students who voted for the delegates.”

At the March convention, around 120 students from government, independent and Catholic schools from across Australia will gather.

“These conventions seek to promote understanding and informed discussion among young Australians about the Australian Constitution and system of government, and is managed by National Curriculum Services in Collaboration with the Australian Curriculum Studies Association,” said Mrs Ratcliff.

“It is an opportunity for students to explore constitutional issues, encouraging them to become better informed about the Australian system of government and how the Australian Constitution provides the framework for our democracy.”

The students have been preparing for the Brisbane convention for months, and IWC CEO Ara Harathunian said the whole community could be proud that the hard work and commitment of the young people had paid off.

“We are delighted that our sponsorship support for them to participate in this convention has been so well utilised. These events are integral in building the voice of our regional youth, and now for one of the team to be taking that voice to the heart of our democracy in Canberra shows the exceptional talents we have in our communities. The whole team is to be congratulated,” he said.

IWC is Aboriginal community-controlled and works to deliver Reconciliation in Action through its services in the region, which are available for both Indigenous and non-Indigenous people across the community.

For the Brisbane event, students had to work together to prepare a persuasive speech on the topic of: “$7.3 million dollars has been allocated in the 2019-20 Federal Budget to co-design an Indigenous Voice to Parliament, as called for in the Uluru Statement from the Heart (2017)”.

The challenge put to the students was: “Briefly argue why First Nations’ Australians should have a constitutionally enshrined representative voice to the Commonwealth Parliament, before proposing how this body could be elected and what they should be responsible for.”

After all the speeches had been presented, the students at the event were asked to vote on a ballot paper for the five delegates they wanted to represent Queensland at the National Constitutional Convention in March 2020.

The delegates were then announced by the Department of Education’s Sharon Williams, Manager of State Schools – Indigenous Education Performance.

“The whole team worked very hard and did an outstanding job, and we are very proud that a student from Burnett State College, Gayndah, will be representing Indigenous students across Queensland,” said Mrs Ratcliff.

Guest speakers on the day included:

  • Aboriginal Elder Aunty Carol Currie
  • David Hartley, Assistant Director-General, State Schools – Indigenous Education, Department of Education
  • Professor Megan Davis, Pro-Vice Chancellor Indigenous UNSW
  • Chris Day – Principal Project Officer, State Schools – Indigenous Education Performance, Department of Education
  • Sharon Williams – Manager, State Schools – Indigenous Education Performance Department of Education