My Vote My Voice, Mon 7 August 2023; 9:15am-12:45pm
The outstanding annual student event My Vote My Voice, conducted by the National Council of Women of Victoria, was held in the Legislative Council Chamber of Parliament House Melbourne. Students from government and independent schools, covering many cultural backgrounds in Melbourne, addressed the topic: What are the barriers to Human Rights in Australia? How can we begin to overcome them. Secondary students from 10 schools made group presentations of their findings from research and, in one case, a survey.
Prior to these student presentations, our Keynote speaker was Lauren Matthews, Director of Programs at the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission. She leads the policy, legal, education, consulting and information functions of the Commission - focused on addressing discrimination, human rights, racial and religious vilification, and change and suppression practices. The Education and Engagement Branch is focused on providing clear, accessible legal information and helping individuals and organisations to understand their rights and responsibilities, via training sessions, consultancy and their Enquiry Line. Previously, Lauren practiced law as a solicitor within Australia, including human rights law, discrimination, refugee, criminal law, family law, child protection, and family violence. For 10 years, Lauren served internationally, primarily with the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Geneva, as well as in field operations in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Nepal. She served as an International Legal Adviser in Sri Lanka for the International Independent Group of Eminent Persons monitoring the national Commission of Inquiry into serious human rights violations. “Only positive outcomes are coming from Victoria’s Charter of Human Rights. It is a vehicle to promote and protect the values of Victoria for a diverse, equal, respectful and just state.” For details of her speech, see August Newsletter.
Student presentations followed this most appropriate and informative start to the morning. There were students from 10 schools: Bayside P-12 College Williamstown Campus, Al Siraat College Epping, Kingswood College, MacRobertson Girls High School, Elwood College, Western English Language School, Footscray High School, Rosehill Secondary College, Firbank Grammar, Melbourne Girls Grammar. A group from each school addressed the topic: What are the barriers to Human Rights in Australia? How can we begin to overcome them. The students presented brilliantly, showing how well they had researched the topic, speaking clearly and with passion. All concluded that a Federal Human Rights Charter was essential and urgent. For more details, see August Newsletter.
Panel members, Fiona Patten, past MLC, Cr Kylie Spears, past Mayor and President of the Australian Local Government Women’s Association, and keynote speaker Lauren Matthews were extremely impressed, suggesting that the students consider local government and/or State government positions in the future! The official photographer has uploaded photos to Dropbox.