One of the best opportunities

Year 9 student Szonja Dobras shares her experience after being selected to join the DOVES student council this year.

Image: Szonja represents the Metro South and West operational directorate.

In May this year I was selected to join the DOVES student council, representing the Metro South and West Directorate, and it is one of the best opportunities I’ve ever had.

I think it’s crucial for young voices to be heard and taken seriously so I immediately applied for the DOVES and was shortlisted for an online interview to talk about my passions and what issues I find relevant for the education system.

To my surprise I was selected to join the 27-member student council to represent almost one million students in NSW.

Our first in-person meeting was held in Sydney over three days where I got to meet the rest of the council members. The students on the council are some of the most intelligent, passionate and dedicated people I have ever met.

Through team building activities and workshops we became quite close, despite our differences in age, interests and background. Together we had the honour of meeting the Minister for Education Sarah Mitchell, who we continue to meet with twice a Term to discuss the council’s plans and progress.

Due to COVID, all our meetings since then have been virtual. Council members have the chance to take on leadership roles as executive members of the council with our meetings facilitated by the Chairperson.

At our meetings we discuss proposals on issues or topics raised by members of the council through our directorate-level meetings and online student forums used to engage the broader student body.

Hosting the forums made me quite nervous, but it has given me the opportunity to step out of my comfort zone and extend myself in multiple areas.

The student forums are an opportunity for the council to hear a diverse range of student views and create a platform where students are comfortable with voicing their concerns with us. Through the forums we’ve heard the opinions of the wider student body with topics ranging from mental health concerns to dealing with racism, sexism, homophobia and bullying in schools.

We also received feedback on a proposal I put forward to the council advocating for change and gender equality in cross-country distances, currently girls run 2km less than boys.

At the early stage of this proposal, we conducted research about distance inequality and found attempts have been made in the past to amend the distances. We worked with representatives in the department to find the best way to approach this and concluded it should be raised with School Sport Australia.

To present our case we needed statistics to back up our proposal, so we prepared a short survey to capture student opinions. The survey questioned participation rates and support for the change. We received more than 500 responses and the data collected was used in a letter to School Sport Australia urging them to fix this gender discrimination.

The DOVES Council has taught me so many skills and given me many memorable experiences and friendships. I strongly encourage you to apply as it is an opportunity to have our voices heard. It’s an opportunity to create a system that does not drive us to despise learning but instead empowers our growth as individuals. It is an opportunity that should not be missed.

The author

Szonja Dobras is a Year 9 student and member of the DOVES Council representing the Metro South and West Directorate.

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