Our newest DOVES take flight

The 2023 DOVES student council is up and running and ready to create change in education and in the wider society. Linda Doherty reports.

Image: Ready to be heard: The 2023 DOVES student council members at the Department of Education State office in Parramatta.

Avid reader Phoebe Vimpany is a highland dancer who lives on a farm and has a wide variety of hobbies, from music to cooking, embroidery and scrapbooking.

The Year 9 student at Glen Innes High School is the 2023 secretary of the DOVES student council – in her second year of membership – and hopes to “connect and bridge the gap between rural or remote areas with the metro advantages, and also advocate for what I feel is necessary in education”.

The 27-member Department of Student Voices in Education and Schools (DOVES) brings the views and feedback of young people directly to decision-makers as the peak student forum for the Minister for Education and Early Learning and the Department of Education Secretary and senior officers.

Launched in 2021, the DOVES represent a diverse range of students and communities and advocate for positive student engagement through educational improvement and innovation in NSW public schools.

The 2023 council met for its annual general meeting and planning session in Sydney last month, welcoming 15 new members – who will each serve a two-year term – and drew up a list of their ‘moonshot’ priorities.

These include accessible education, a safe space for every student, wellbeing professionals in every school, cultural recognition in the curriculum, and an attendance focus where “everyone wants to come to school every day”.

The DOVES research with their peers in their schools and regions and provide feedback on a range of policy initiatives. The student council, for example, was consulted on the Department of Education’s return to school roadmap following COVID-19 lockdowns and learning from home periods.

One of the 15 new members, Girraween High School Year 10 student Dhishana Sutharshan, is an advocate for protecting the environment and the rights of women and LGBTQI+ people.

“I’d like to bring awareness to environmental issues in public schools as well as better ways to address mental health,” she said.

Maverick Noakes, in Year 9 at Moree Secondary College, a Connected Communities school, is also a new member of the DOVES and is looking forward to further developing his leadership skills.

“I’m interested in all things creative and leadership-related, and I’m passionate about inspiring others to be their best selves,” he said.

Christopher Booth, in Year 10 at Bombaderry High School, is a student with autism who loves old British sitcoms like Dad’s Army and ’Allo ’Allo and wants to be a children’s author.

“I wanted to join the DOVES program to mainly be a voice for the students with autism and the many support units throughout the South Coast,” he said.

Amelia Mathieson, in Year 9 at Merewether High School, has three siblings and nine pets and her family fosters children, who “I love just as much as my biological family”.

“I’m passionate about making public education more tailored to different types of students – whether that is in relation to their living situation, how they learn, or who they are,” she said.

And for Ahaan Dani, in Year 6 at Beecroft Public School and one of the youngest DOVES, the student council is the perfect platform for his interest in politics and current affairs.

“I believe NSW students deserve the privilege of a world-class education system so that we can become the education state of Australia,” he said.

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