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Thursday, 13 September 2018
Page: 9013

Mr WATTS (Gellibrand) (10:17): I recently completed a voyage on the sail training ship the Young Endeavour as part of the ADF parliamentary exchange program. The Young Endeavour Youth Scheme is a not-for-profit organisation run in partnership with the Royal Australian Navy which provides young Australians aged 16 to 23 with a unique, challenging and inspirational experience at sea aboard the Young Endeavour. On occasion, with the greatest respect for my colleagues, I'm able to feel young in this building, but, on that ship, with the 20-odd members of the youth crew and the dozen or so RAN sailors who made up the staff crew, I felt every day of my age.

I took part in the full experience, from climbing the topgallant yard of the mainsail 10 storeys above the rolling sea, to scrubbing the heads during the morning happy hour clean. So I can attest, with firsthand experience, that the scheme and the staff crew have the program finely tuned. They know how to take young Australians out of their comfort zones, physically and emotionally, forcing them to deal with sleep deprivation from rolling four-hour watches, the physical discomfort of seasickness, the fear of climbing the yardarms and the isolation of living without a mobile phone for 10 days and then giving them a task to perform as a group to show them what they can achieve through focus, self-control and teamwork.

I must say that, on day one, I was doubtful whether a group of 16- to 23-year-olds from across Australia who'd never met each other before would be able to sail the ship and take control of the vessel on their own at the end of the voyage, but they did exactly that during their 24-hour command day. And it's difficult to convey the feeling of pride that I felt from seeing a member of the youth group on a yardarm at 2 am untying the gaskets from a sail 10 storeys above the ocean, being overcome with seasickness but retaining the presence of mind to vomit into a sick bag they had in their back pocket rather than all over the sails and the deck below. It was inspiring to see the capabilities of young Australians in action.

The crew reflected every aspect of the youth of Australia, from the big smoke and the bush, men and women, Indigenous Australians, Chinese Australians, Australians who were born here and Australians who migrated here. Joining me on the 10-day Young Endeavour voyage were two inspiring young individuals from my electorate, Winta and Mo, from the African-Australian community. Both Winta and Mo were chosen as part of the 2018 African Australian Leadership Challenge, a program that I've been developing to provide leadership development opportunities for emerging leaders from the African-Australian community in Melbourne's west.

I want to thank all the youthies who sailed with me on my voyage for letting me share their experience, and I want to give a special shout-out to the white watch, which I was a member of. I also want to thank the members of the RAN staff group: the captain, Andrew 'Kenny' Callander; Blake; Darren; Brett; Paige; Karly; Kyle; Harry; Zac; Ivanka; and, of course, Salty. It is always a privilege to see Australian servicemen and servicewomen doing what they were trained to do. It's one of the real privileges of our job as member of parliament, and I recommend the program to all other MPs.