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Thursday, 5 February 2009
Page: 653

Mrs GASH (12:31 PM) —Last year in September, 19-year-old Emily Nye from the Shoalhaven participated in the National Student Leadership Forum. I would like to read a condensed version of her comments onto the record, as only she can best describe her own feelings that the forum generated. This is what she wrote:

Leading up to the Forum I was excited but scared at the same time. Walking into a room of 300 strangers was the most daunting situation I’ve ever experienced.

As an aside, I have to say that Emily is an amateur entertainer, so the occasion must have been exceptionally daunting. She continued:

Over the next 4 days I knew I would make some friends but at this moment I was completely out of my comfort zone. I have never been inside Parliament House before and it was an incredible building, although we did arrive at 2pm and didn’t leave until 10.30 pm, so it was an extremely long day.

After going through security twice, where you weren’t allowed to take in any electrical devices, watches, water bottles and other ridiculous items, we went into Question Time and to be completely honest, it was like watching a group of children. I remember thinking, ‘these are the people looking after this country’? This seemed to be the general opinion of everyone in my group. It was a very surreal experience, sitting above, looking down at the Prime Minister and other Members of Parliament and actually knowing they were only metres away.

We had an introduction with the organizers of the Forum and then we had a meet and greet with the Opposition leader, Malcolm Turnbull. Over the very first day we had many meet and greets with other Members of Parliament. I found listening to all the different Parliamentarians one on one, that my attitude toward them changed very quickly. They were just ordinary people and nothing like the people you see in Question Time or on the news.

We had dinner in the Great Hall and my group was a little late in attending. One of the members in my group actually worked for one of the Members of the Labor Party, therefore he had access to areas others didn’t, so we took a detour by the Prime Minister’s office, more like a wing, on our way to dinner.

Over dinner we were addressed by Mr David Moffatt, the CEO of Telstra and enjoyed a performance from the Australian of the Year, Mr Lee Kernaghan, who incidentally broke his G-string whilst playing his guitar.

I appreciate the double entendre here. She continued:

Back at the hotel it was a struggle to find my room but I eventually did after getting lost down many corridors. The next day we took the bus to the Australian War Memorial where we listened to an inspirational speech about servant leadership, standing around the reflective pool.

We then made our way back to Parliament House to attend political seminars. At the political seminars, you would listen to a politician speaking of their experiences and challenges they’ve overcome to be where they are today.

We then attended a meet and greet with the Prime Minister before having small group time over lunch. Following sport in the afternoon another small group time after dinner at 8.30 which ran until the early hours of the morning. Over this small group time we all got to know each other and I truly believe this was the most honest any of us had ever been. Being complete strangers, I would never have thought that everyone would open up and discuss their ideas for the future, their issues and problems they’ve had in the past and insecurities they were facing.

It was amazing to sit and listen to everyone’s stories and learn that everyone had the same insecurities and ideas as I did. Getting to know everyone on this personal level really bonded the group and I can truly say that I left Canberra with 8 best friends who I completely trusted and cherished.

Saturday we had community seminars covering a wide range of topics such as racism, community spirit and youths at risk just to name a few. We then had a community service project in Queanbeyan. My group had a gardening activity at a private home where we had fun feeding the chickens and getting our faces painted by the 3 little girls living there.

That night we had a Bollywood Dinner Dance which was a fantastic night out. We got to learn Bollywood dancing and have competitions. It was also a great time to sit down and discuss what we had learnt over the last 3 days. I remember getting back to the Hotel and I was crying on the phone to mum because I really didn’t want to come home.

Sunday morning arrived and everyone in my group was quiet during breakfast. I kept looking around at everyone and I was getting really emotional knowing that I would have to say goodbye to my new family. We went outside for the final Small Group time and relived the last 3 days we had together.

We finally had to say goodbye and I just couldn’t stop crying, which then led to my Group leader crying as well.

I said goodbye to everyone, got numbers, emails etc. We also received a Yearbook so we can keep in touch with everyone and I think we were all very thankful to Facebook where we can catch up on a regular basis.

I had the most amazing time in Canberra and I am so thankful to have been invited and chosen to attend the National Student Leadership Forum 2008. Although daunting at the time, being pushed out of my comfort zone was the most extraordinary thing for me to experience and I’ll always cherish the time spent at the Forum, even though it meant me crying the entire way home over the following 2 days.