Students from 11 schools in Cairns and surrounding regions took part in the Junior Indigenous Youth Parliament last Thursday, with 52 participating students.

Held at Riley Crystalbrook Resort, the event was hosted by the Queensland Parliament and chaired by Speaker Curtis Pitt.

The students were given the opportunity to debate a motion on a youth issue, speak about an inspirational Indigenous person or speak in an adjournment debate about any issue falling within the jurisdiction of the Queensland Parliament, including healthcare, housing, local facilities and youth justice.

Students in years five and six were nominated in June from schools including Edge Hill State School, Gordonvale State School, Kuranda District State College, and Yungaburra State School.

Five students from Kuranda District State College spoke on topics close to their hearts, including renowned Indigenous people and the Kuranda Range.

“We had Alyce speak about her great grandmother Rhonda Brim and her mum Ruby Nandy,  Sherral-Lee speak on more housing for the Kuranda area and Shaun, who acted as Youth Premier for Deeral, speak on protecting our cassowaries,” said Sonya Richardson, Coordinator for the Indigenous Leaders Program at Kuranda District State College.

Richardson accompanied the students to the Junior Indigenous Youth Parliament, and said she was beyond impressed with the way they stepped up to the opportunity.

“They did an absolutely deadly job. They were a bit nervous, but they got through it very well,” she said.

“They proposed their own topics—we just kind of sat around the table and they came up with the issues all by themselves. They even wrote their own speeches.”

The day provided the students with a valuable opportunity to gain a better understanding of Queensland’s democratic process.

“It’s given them a voice and knowledge on how the standard procedure for Parliament works,” she said.

“It made them understand that every law around Queensland is coming from different people and different levels, and the way to do that is to talk about something that is close to your heart.”

Two students from Yungaburra State School also embarked on a major learning curve. They were taught about Parliament, the different roles involved, and the formalities associated with proceedings prior to the event.

“I think it’s important for young people to have a voice and a sense of belonging. This was an opportunity for them to communicate in a forum that’s bigger than the school situation,” said Acting Principal Adrianne Telford.

The Speaker congratulated the students and schools that participated in the event and said he hopes it inspires “students to take on an even greater role in Queensland’s democratic process”.

“I thank the youth members from across the region for their hard work in preparing for this event and for having their say on the issues that matter to them,” he said.

Mr Pitt was assisted in chairing the event by Minister for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Partnerships; Fire and Emergency Services, Craig Crawford, Member for Cairns, Michael Healy, and Member for Hill, Shane Knuth.

By Imogen Kars