DOVES fly in delivering student views to Minister

Students got a slice of Sarah Mitchell’s diary when she met with her council this week.

Image: A pizza the action: Education and Early Learning Minister Sarah Mitchell joined the DOVES council for dinner last night.

Students from as far west as Wilcannia, Narooma in the south and Kingscliff in the north met in Sydney this week, bringing the voice of young people directly to the ears of Minister for Education and Early Learning Sarah Mitchell.

The 27-member Department of Student Voices in Education and Schools (DOVES) council is the peak forum for the Minister and Department of Education senior officers to engage in authentic discussions that inform education and school policies affecting students.

“Meeting with the DOVES is always a highlight of my week. The students bring refreshing insights into issues of real concern to young people and the research and feedback they provide me is so valuable,” Ms Mitchell said.

DOVES Publicity Officer Nicole Tarrant, a Year 11 student at Armidale Secondary College, said the council appreciated meeting face-to-face with Ms Mitchell in the NSW Parliament House Legislative Assembly to raise issues from students across the state.

“It gives students a stronger sense of connection and we feel like our voices are being heard and the Minister wants to listen – and on a level she can relate to us,” Nicole said.

The students briefed Ms Mitchell on their surveys with students which have raised issues of concern about young people’s access to confidential mental healthcare information, the need for more school-based education to combat racism and homophobia, and the impact of students’ vaping at school resulting in restricted access to school bathrooms.

The DOVES survey on a proposal for an awareness campaign for young people to access confidential mental health care information was developed with guidance from Associate Professor Melissa Kang, General Practice Clinical School co-head at the University of Sydney.

“The DOVES played a really important role on the return to school roadmap following those long periods of COVID-19 lockdowns, and I look forward to seeing what they have in mind for this mental health campaign,” Ms Mitchell said.

The students shared pizza at Bondi with Ms Mitchell during their two-day symposium of meetings and workshops, rounded out today with a visit to the University of NSW today to meet with Vice-Chancellor Attila Brungs.

The student council was established in 2021 following a request from Ms Mitchell for ‘student voice’ to be involved in inclusive policy development. The DOVES represent a diverse range of students and communities and advocate for positive student engagement through educational improvement and innovation in NSW schools.

The current DOVES council has students from the following schools: Albion Park HS, Armidale Secondary College, Arthur Phillip HS, Baulkham Hills HS, Brisbane Waters Secondary College, Glen Innes HS, Hoxton Park HS, Kingscliff HS, Kirrawee HS, Maitland Grossman HS, Merewether HS, Murrumbidgee Regional HS, Narooma HS, Northern Beaches Secondary College Mackellar Girls Campus, Pleasant Hills Public School, Port Hacking HS, Rose Bay Secondary College, Smith’s Hill HS, St Ives HS, Sydney Girls HS, Terrigal HS, Wagga Wagga HS, Wilcannia Central School and Young HS.

The next group of student leaders from year 5 to Year 9 can nominate for a two-year term on the DOVES council when applications open on Monday, 7 November.

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