More than one hundred students across Years 7 to 12 at John Therry Catholic College, Rosemeadow, had the opportunity to put their questions to federal politicians Hon Tanya Plibersek, Shadow Minister for Education and Women; Dr Mike Freelander, Federal Member for Macarthur; and Mr Chris Hayes, Federal Member for Fowler, at a Student Leadership Forum recently hosted by the school.
Students called on the political leaders to provide their perspectives on the importance of democracy, compulsory voting, the treatment of refugees, the value of service and stewardship, the role of women in Australian politics, and the pathways and challenges of political leadership.
The forum - chaired by John Therry Catholic College captains Lauren Marsh and Wayne Gibbons - was followed by a morning tea, where students and teachers had the opportunity to speak directly with the politicians.
In their addresses to the students, each of the guests spoke on a range of topics, including how their education and upbringing had strongly influenced their political roles and their decision-making process.
“It’s really important for leaders to have a strong moral foundation when it comes to decision making,” said Ms Plibersek. “Raising children who are kind, patient, and forgiving is just as important as raising kids who are academically bright. A moral foundation is a really important thing for parents and teachers to strive for when raising the next generation.”
Dr Freelander spoke of the responsibility society has to ensure the needs of everyone are supported equally, including people with disabilities. Before entering politics, Dr Freelander worked as a Pediatrician in the Macarthur area for many years.
The topic of human rights and the inherent right to life were discussed by Mr Hayes, who shared a story of his involvement in seeking clemency from the Balinese government for the execution of two members of the Bali Nine. “You have to use your voice for good and stand up for what you believe in,“ said Mr Hayes. “As Christians and people of goodwill, the most profound right is the right to life.”
Click below to view a summary of the Student Leadership Forum.
The importance of leadership and having a voice in the community were some of the key points that John Therry Catholic College captain Lauren Marsh took from the forum.
“It was important that the leaders from years 7 to 12 heard from inspiring people and learned from what they had to say so that they can be the future of politics,” she said.
Brad McAllister, Acting Principal of John Therry Catholic College, said it was an honour for the school to host the event and the college is hoping the forum will encourage more young people, particularly young women, to step into leadership roles.
“We’ve had an amazing morning hearing from each politician,” he said. “As Catholic educators, we hope today has inspired students into positions of leadership and a life of service.”
Peter Hill, Director of Schools in the Diocese of Wollongong, agrees that events like the Student Leadership Forum provide real-life learning opportunities to develop leadership qualities in students.
“Catholic education is about developing the whole person,” he said. “It’s important that we provide a range of opportunities, both inside and outside the classroom, for students to reach their full potential.”