Tag Archives: Amy Bryans

38. Ivanhoe Girls Grammar School Youth Parliament Team 2013

12 Jun


“We’re going to be the leaders of the world,” Rachel Mao, 18, exclaims. The audacity and courage of Rachel’s statement goes unnoticed by her and those around her. This is how they think. They are unapologetic, self assured and excited to be part of Generation Y, the future leaders of Australia. It can be breathtaking for older generations!

Before me, Rachel is joined by Crystal Wong, Gloria Deng and Mihika Hegde. They are all from the Ivanhoe Girls’ Grammar team for Youth Parliament 2013. While the ministers of Victoria are absent for a week in July, 120 young people take over the chambers of Parliament and debate bills they have designed around issues important to them.

Hand-picked from a pool of year 11 applicants, the members of this team are as diverse as they are united. They agree everyone in the team “has a range of qualities, interests and skills, so as a team worked really well together” – and work they did. For six months they brainstormed and researched their chosen issue to craft the perfect bill, one that has an admirable and impressive balance between idealism and pragmatism.

Gloria says they wanted a bill that was “practical and captured what we were passionate about as a team … we thought about what needed the most change in Australia.” They decided on a bill titled “The Abolishment of Factory Farming” because the team was “really passionate about animal rights”. Factory farming is an industry where livestock is raised in highly confined spaces to produce high output at low cost, something that has become increasingly concerning for young people in particular as it raises many ethical issues. Their bill boldly stated that it’s aim was “to completely phase out factory farming by 2030”. The bill is highly ambitious even when compared to other Youth Parliament bills but the girls were determined to create a bill that was willing to make the necessary scarifies to create an Australia that is responsible, ethical and sustainable in the treatment towards livestock.

Speaking with wisdom beyond her years, Mihika explains why reducing cruelty towards animals is important: “Even though it’s such a new issue that’s only just come out into mainstream society, it’s been going on a long, long time. So there’s a shock factor to it, which is why it’s so important that we take that shock and turn it into actions.”

Truly the definition of striking while the iron is hot, the girls took their ambitious bill into Parliament House to be debated. Reflecting reality, not all bills debated are passed in the world of Youth Parliament. Their peers vote on a bill after a few rounds of healthy debate. The girls explain that friendship doesn’t come into play; their peers will decide if a bill should pass based purely on its merit. Crystal says firmly: “Everyone is serious about it. We actually think about whether a bill would change society for the better.”

Considering successful bills are passed onto the real-life relevant minister for consideration, with many influencing real laws, there was a lot of hard work and emotion at stake when the Ivanhoe team presented its bill for debate. Rachel reminisces about the moment their bill passed: “It was really exciting because we worked really hard to put our bill together. Having it debated and having support from everyone was really great.”

Inspired and empowered by the success of the bill and their time on Youth Parliament, the Ivanhoe girls explain how their lives have changed and been influenced. Gloria excitedly explains that they’re not usually in an environment with lots of different young people who want to create change. “It was really empowering,” she says. “At school, I didn’t really have anything, then I went to Youth Parliament and learned that I could have my passion!”

Crystal’s experience was rather personal: “I never used to debate or do public speaking. Going to Youth Parliament I proved to myself that it’s not that bad to speak out.”

It’s clear to me that Youth Parliament itself has been enriched and honored by the presence of these young women, powerhouses of change. As we close our interview, I challenge them by asking: “Why does youth engagement matter?” There is no doubt the cliché of the apathy and disengagement among young people runs rampant in society – what do the Ivanhoe girls think of this? Not much, apparently. They discovered that Australia is full of young people who want to make a change and are prepared to shoulder the problems they will inherit. Rachel implores young people to recognise that they” have the power to do something and to make a change”.

Mihika, with a determined glint in her eye, leaves me with words that once again astound me and remind me that the young women before me are forces to be reckoned with, now and in the future: “It sounds clichéd but we are the future of Australia. The problems we have today are the ones that will be solved by us in the very near future.”

Words: Amy Bryans

Photo: Sean Porter

27. Amy Bryans

4 Apr

amy bryansEver heard that saying “children should be seen and not heard?” and stopped for a moment to contemplate what little relevance it holds in this day and age. It is already well known that Gen Y are the ones who will soon be taking over from the ‘Baby Boomers’ and fixing the mistakes made by those gone before us. This being the case the idea that children should “not be heard” makes no sense, as those belonging to Gen Y need to have their voices heard if we are to have any chance of making an impact on our world.

Meeting annually, YMCA in conjunction with the Victorian Parliament have created a program that does just that, giving  the youth of our generation a chance to speak out and have their voices heard. In a bid to improve the lives of Australia’s youths the YMCA Youth Parliament program gives those aged between sixteen and twenty five a chance to come together and vote for bills that they feel strongly about. In 2011 the amiable Amy Bryans participated in the program and was voted by her peers to be the Youth Premier.  She explains to me just how big an impact the program has made on her and what it offers for those wishing to join.

There is an unmistakable confidence brimming from this polite well-mannered young woman who has just emerged from a meeting at the Banyule Council where she is planning for a series of speaking engagements she will deliver in schools. Her warm personality makes her easy to talk to as we slip into the interview, in which she explains what first started her involvement in the Youth Parliament program. “I really wanted to gain leadership and experience” she says as she informs me of the YMCA camp that first brought the program to her attention.

Unlike some youth based programs, YMCA Youth Parliament requires a lot of time and dedication, “it take around six months to decide on the issues we want to bring to parliament” Bryans says, “after all the bills need to plausible in order for them to work.” There are around twenty teams that come together, the option of joining being entirely of one’s own volition, with groups from all sorts of schools, universities and scouts coming forward to take part in the program. “It gives people a chance to put their voice forward, and best of all you could have zero interest in politics and still have a great time.”

So what has this experience done for Amy? Already an outgoing character, she has seen Youth Parliament as an outlet to further explore her skills in leadership training. Now having already shouldered such a responsibility as Youth Premier she found the role not only “gave her something to do” but also gave her “somewhere to go”. Having become a part of Youth Parliament to gain leadership and experience she has found the program fulfilled all these hopes and expectations, teaching her how to handle responsibility and properly lead a group of young keen individuals, having allowed her to put her own voice and ideas forward.

Although she admits she never saw herself engaging in politics she is eager to return and further her skills. “This year I am a part of the Youth Parliament Taskforce on the Media and Communications Portfolio” she explains. When asked about her coming plans, “I hope to get lots of great media for the program” hoping to encourage more to come forward and participate. As well as this Bryans plans to further her love for theatre, “I hope to become a theatre director” she says, “I even returned to my old high school to assist in the school production.”

“I’d rather be busy than bored” she smiles “I have no problem doing a thousand things, it keeps my life interesting.” It’s no surprise that when asked about her life in high school she happily explains how she was school captain for year twelve, “I loved high school, I was always heavily involved.”

Crediting her love and inspiration for getting out and leading the public back to Youth Parliament she admits just how much it changed her life. “It inspired so much confidence in me, I was selected to develop my leadership skills and it’s really helped me grow as a person.” Now having such an ability with the public, when asked whether she values her reputation over speaking her mind her answer shows a level of sophistication and maturity one can only attribute to her experience with Youth Parliament. “When I was younger I would’ve said speaking your mind was more important, but now I think it’s more a balance between the two, and knowing how to interact with people.”

Coming from a family of divorced parents she explains how one shouldn’t let what happens around them be a product of who you are. Her family also run their own drama studio, which is what first inspired her desire to pursue a career in acting. “Working in performing arts” she says, “it makes life so interesting”.

She is a truly remarkable young woman who should serve as an inspiration to all who come into contact with her.

Words By:Rachel Nixon

Photo by: Sean Porter