Ten-week journey has lifelong memories

Chantelle Bourne shares her experience of being part of the committee tasked with creating a student council for the NSW Education Minister.

Image: Working together: The 13-member student steering committee outside NSW Parliament.

Within a 500-word limit, it is quite a task to encompass everything that you need to say; a motif not dissimilar to the task myself and 12 other students were assigned. We were to create a constitution for a council where members act as advocates for an ever-expanding and diverse NSW student body. The result was a self-dependent council created by students, for students; named the Department of Student Voices in Education and Schools or DOVES.

Thirteen of us were selected for the massive task of providing a method of communication and influence between policymakers and the key stakeholders in education, students. To advocate for such a massively diverse student body was definitely a difficult task, but one we all had a passion for.

The short time period we were allocated for designing the council, as well as a foreign environment of people, was hard for me to adjust to in the early stages. Applying myself entirely in an environment I’m not familiar with is definitely a skill I fall short on. Furthermore, I, and one other, were of the youngest members of the council which meant we were not only working alongside confident, passionate, eloquently spoken people, but people that had more experience and further refined skills.

Needless to say, the amazing people I met and connected with were nowhere near as daunting as I initially found them to be. They all had their own unique voice and experiences, whether it be their personality, background, interests, etc; and by the middle stages of development for the council, I was becoming quite attached to the DOVES. It was wonderful to realise that there too were other students that were as willing and hungry to spark change in the world as I was. Being provided with a safe space where we, the students, were the creators of a council that had the potential to actually influence change was empowering and truly endearing to all of us.

I am definitely more observant than spoken and quickly came to admire the strengths of my peers. Neha is devoted. Jay is funny. PJ is a good friend. Jadzia is outspoken. Jasper is charismatic. Corinne is kind hearted. Charli is a good listener. Alex is confident. Francesco is passionate. Serge is high spirited. Emily is supportive and Namra is strong willed.

On Wednesday February 10 we presented our final proposal at Parliament House to Sarah Mitchell, the Minister for Education. Accomplishment and enthusiasm filled the rooms of Parliament as we concluded a presentation that took more than 10 weeks in the making. It marked the dawn of new beginnings and the conclusion of a journey that we had travelled together.

I have developed new friendships; skills such as self-assurance, confidence and a desire to be the change I seek in the world around me. Five hundred words are nowhere near enough to describe what this experience meant to us, but DOVES will forever be a living reminder of our journey as well as the future of Student Voice in decisions that directly impact us.

Young High School student Chantelle Bourne was in Year 9 when she was selected in 2020 to be part of the student steering committee.

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