Student Leadership Equity Forum, Western Sydney Region
On Tuesday 7 December, Western Sydney Region, with the support of the Multicultural / ESL Consultant, unfolded a new initiative, a Student Leadership Equity Forum. The idea for this forum came from the passion of a group of teachers at a Multicultural Network meeting to start initiatives with students in their own high schools. These teachers formed a committee to develop this idea within the region. It was decided to present sessions to students at a pilot forum to be held in Term 4 2004 and Year 8 was targeted.
At the beginning of Term 4, the teachers met and planned the Forum and 10 schools were invited to attend. Each school chose 4 Year 8 students, who were known leaders who wanted to make a difference, to attend. Schools volunteered to present activities prepared by their students. Participants were confirmed, guest speakers were booked, resources bought for badge making and prizes and the Forum was ready to go.
Jacinta Tobin, a local Dharruk singer and songwriter came to do Welcome to Country and stayed to assist Windsor HS teach participants an Aboriginal song. A highlight of the day was her passion and warmth . The 2004 School Captain of Blacktown Girls High School gave an address which inspired students to strive to achieve their best. During the day students were regularly asked to sit beside a new friend and get to know them.
Students made their own badges as name tags. Students learnt about equity issues and rights and responsibilities were discussed through a team game. Activities were presented by all teachers attending and several school groups presented multicultural and anti-racism activities or strategies which they had found to be useful. Students learned songs and dances and had the opportunity to play team games and to sit and reflect in group activities.
Warm fuzzy envelopes were pinned to one wall and cards and pens placed nearby. Throughout the day, students and teachers added positive comments on the small cards, so students were able to take away a warm collection of comments. Students really appreciated this activity and during breaks checked their own envelopes and added supportive words to others.
School groups had planning time to think about the issues and needs of their own schools and what they could do as a student committee. Students were very excited and felt empowered by the day. They were all keen to return to school to form a committee to look at the issues they had identified and consider ways to improve their school culture and environment.
There was a Racismnoway website presentation and a student quiz. Students were pleased to receive a pack containing a Racismnoway T-shirt and stickers. These T-shirts were instantly donned and students, who had arrived in school uniform, left at the end of the day proudly wearing their T-shirts.
Barry Higgins, Mt Druitt School Education Director, presented certificates to all participating teachers and students and commended them on the success of the day.
Students not only appreciated the content of the day but had the opportunity to meet many other students from regional schools and exchange information and learn new ideas. They felt empowered and impassioned to form school committees and put into practice the wonderful ideas they had learned about or developed in school sessions. These school groups will also be supported by the teacher networking developed at the forum. An important message on the day was that individuals can make a difference and these students are determined to do just that.
In 2005, a forum will be held each semester and invitations will be sent to all schools in the region. These forums will be run by the student leaders from the previous forum who will plan the content of the sessions. Students will have a chance to show their leadership qualities and to share their interest and passion for equity issues with other students across the region. Committee representation will grow in participating schools.
Students are having their say in the Western Sydney Region.