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Thursday, 10 May 2018
Page: 3788


Mr WATTS (Gellibrand) (11:14): One of the most rewarding parts of my job is spending time with young people in my electorate and talking with them about our democracy and the role that we can all play in creating change in our society. Unlike the popular stereotype, I usually find young people to be less cynical about the world and more optimistic about the potential for change in our country than the average person on the street. To this end, I recently had the privilege of hosting student leaders from schools across my electorate at my office for the first Gellibrand School Leaders Forum, a practical workshop on issues in our community and the role that young people can play in solving them.

Participating schools were Sunshine Secondary College, Gilmore Girls College, Williamstown High, Emmanuel College, Mount St Joseph's Girls' College, Footscray City College and Bayside College. Some of the issues that students raised at this forum included the need to educate students about politics, inclusion, sustainability and waste management in our community, climate change, and the need for politicians to engage young people in our political process more effectively and creatively. The participants in the forum have all given me an action plan about the changes they want to make in their schools and communities and what they will do to make it happen. Their ideas include a youth town hall event in our community where young people can raise and debate issues in their communities; an engaging how-to guide that informs students about how they can engage with their local MP—that's me—and build confidence for them to engage with the political process more broadly; community composting initiatives in their schools and communities; and funding for community vegetable patches.

I have given them a commitment to back them in and help them make their action plans a reality. I was impressed by their creativity and enthusiasm to solve issues in our broader community. We can all learn from their example, optimism and energy. I would like to thank the following students for participating in the forum: Hasnain Musharib, Angelique Corke-Cox, Sydneyrita Fatamala, BJ Falute, Elena Turner, Sara Coladonato, Cameron Palin, Jade Pedlar, Sarah Kassar, Manu Yu Chai, Charlie Vu, Joseph Siccita, Ashar Abdul-Gaffar, Christopher Koulis, Madeline Bateman, Amy Smedly, Alexandra Strangis, Hayley Cassidy, Toby Walker, Leela Grey, Ruby Goonan, Charlie Morrison and Lachlan Gregorio. It was an energising morning with these fantastic young Australian citizens, and it gave me great confidence in the future of our democracy. I'm looking forward to working with these young leaders to help solve the issues they have raised, to help their work in our community and to ensure that the next generation of young Australians feel that they have a stake in the future of our democracy.