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Monday, 23 November 2015
Page: 13361

Ms KATE ELLIS (Adelaide) (10:47): Deputy Speaker Sukkar, as you would know all too well, often this is a place where we focus on conflict and our differences on a range of issues, but of course it is important that we also note that every member of this House recognises just how lucky we are to be able to participate in the strong and stable democracy that Australia has always enjoyed. We know that we cannot take for granted the fact that we have the rights, responsibilities and privileges that come from being part of such a healthy democracy. We know that it is important that all children growing up in Australia recognise just how lucky we are and recognise that not all countries around the world have these rights and privileges and have the opportunity to participate in public debate. That is why it is so important that we all work to make sure that schools within our communities focus on Australia's democracy and on how people can be part of that.

I have been very lucky to visit schools on countless occasions across the electorate of Adelaide and hear directly from young Australians about their views on the issues that are important to them and their concerns, but also questions that they have. Sometimes it is very easy to underestimate young Australians. In fact, the first time I visited a school in the electorate some 11 years ago, I visited a group of year 6 students at St Raphael's primary school. After speaking very slowly to them in very simple terms, I asked whether any of them had any questions. A tiny little man put up his hand and said, 'Excuse me, Ms Ellis, but do you think that the Australian government takes a compassionate enough approach to asylum seekers in this nation?' and I recognised that I had significantly underestimated the passionate views and understanding of young Australians.

That is also true of the schools that come and visit this place as part of their lessons about democracy. I know that 16 schools from the electorate of Adelaide have visited Parliament House in recent times and I have had the great opportunity to go and meet with several of them. Just on Friday, I was at Prospect Primary School presenting certificates to the year 7s who participated in their recent visit, but a few weeks earlier I met with the year 6 students from Walford Anglican School for Girls. About 50 girls from year 6, along with five of their teachers, came along a few weeks ago and I went and spoke to them. I asked them what issues they would raise if they were able to stand up in the House of Representatives and make a contribution. They answered that they would talk about climate change, about women in parliament, about education, about marriage equality and about the importance of a strong health system. I pledged to raise these issues on their behalf in the parliament and I am very happy to do so today.