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Tuesday, 28 October 2014
Page: 12348

Mr BANDT (Melbourne) (21:10): There are some amazing people in Melbourne. On Friday night I attended the University High valedictory assembly together with Ellen Sandell, our Greens candidate for Melbourne in the upcoming Victorian election. At this assembly we heard the stories of the students of Uni High, of their journey over the past six years and of their achievements at school and within our Melbourne community. At a time when many of them were no doubt under the pressure of getting ready for exams, there was a moment of shared respite at their very warm graduation ceremony. The MCs, Jasmine Nguyen and Nick Munari, were naturals—and they even stepped in to extend the time when there was a gap in the program that needed it.

The valedictory speeches from Robin Wagner and Mr Lang Qin were incredibly witty and they had all of their colleagues in the palm of their hands. What was very clear, as all the students came up to accept their graduation certificates, was the genuine warmth that all of the other members of their year had for them. These are an incredibly thoughtful bunch of students. It is often said that these are the people who will go on to make a difference in the future, but these students are already doing it now—a group came together to produce a yearbook, a feminist group had formed and there is the students-making-a-difference group.

What also became apparent as we were presenting the awards, two of which I had the honour of presenting myself, was that these are students who would put many of us to shame. Eva McLeod Goodman confided in me before the ceremony that she did not think she was going to get an award—and she won two: the English award and the Bryce all-rounder award. Madeleine Castles took out three: the English award, the humanities award and the Anne & Graham Coles musical award—a truly outstanding breadth of experience. Other winners were Annabelle Ballard; Callum Rogers; Jackie Li; Jessica Ji; Rui Jin; Shuyang Zhou; Natalie Ferrington; Nick Munari; Uri Barak, who decided to step in in the middle of the show and perform a short piece of Rachmaninov—as you do; Lewis Newland; Aditi Chetty; and Sarah Scholz. Those two young women took out the science prize—it is wonderful to see two women receiving the WEHI science prize. Dominque Tasevski, who also won one of the humanities prizes, is a student who takes politics and the humanities incredibly seriously. Gaye Kurtoglu was also a the Bryce all-rounder winner. Sumia Hadi, Sachinee Jayasuriya and Robin Wagner were other recipients.

What also became very clear was that University High principal Robert Newton, the staff, the teachers, the administrators, the parents and the other members of this tight school community are very much part of the reason for this group's success. I want to thank all of them for their dedication and support of their students over many years because they are truly part of the reason for its success.

I also want to remind everyone who is going through year 12 at the moment that, as well as making it their focus, they should remember that final exams are not everything—there is life after exams and life after year 12—and that their value is not determined by their school marks. There is an organisation called ReachOut that is providing online support and information to young Australians about mental health. It has launched a campaign called 'There's Life After Year 12 Exams', a campaign in which Australians who themselves have made it through year 12 and have been successful in other parts of their lives share their stories and provide advice to current students. If you are feeling the pressure, I encourage you to check their website

Perhaps the best point in the evening, a point that summarised the feeling shared by many of the students, came from school principal Robert Newton, who is much loved and much respected in the community. One of the things that he reflected on was, of course, the passing of Gough Whitlam and he shared his favourite quote, which was:

A true patriot can see what was wrong with their country and instead of trying to explain it or justified they set out to change it.

But perhaps the moment for me was the end of the principal's speech, when he enjoined his students to live by a simple principle: don't become one of those people who spend money they don't have to buy things they don't need to impress people they don't like. You could tell from the reaction in the room that that was something that many of those people shared, and I think it is probably a timely reminder for all of us, whether or not we are going through year 12 exams.