Victorian Students’ Parliamentary Convention Program
I accompanied two Year 5 students, Michael Gashi and Cohen Pedruco, to attend the 2016 Primary Schools’ Parliamentary Convention at Parliament House on 8 September 2016. Two students from some fifty schools representing urban and regional Victoria (with only three catholic schools) were in attendance.
The day was both enjoyable and educative. It was also well organised, including our transport there (thanks Mrs Gashi) and back to school at the end of the day (thanks Mrs Pedruco).
Following registration, we were ushered into the chamber of the Legislative Assembly where students were assigned to the Parliamentary benches for the day. The Hon Don Nardella, Deputy Speaker, welcomed everyone then introduced us to the Hon James Merlino, Deputy Premier and Minister for Education.
The Hon James Merlino explained the workings of Parliament which he described as a place where ideas are contested respectfully and without resort to violence, symbolised by the size of the Parliamentary table which was wide enough to prevent sword contact by either side!
The topic for the day was “All social media should be banned for children under 12”. This was addressed by the day’s keynote speaker, Mr Greg Gebhart, from the Office of the Children’s eSafety Commissioner. He was very engaging and drew many responses from the young MPs.
Student delegates from 15 schools then addressed the convention for two minutes on the topic of social media. Michael Gashi was the second speaker and delivered his prepared speech confidently and persuasively.
After a welcome morning tea break in Queen’s Hall, students were divided into ten groups to explore a particular scenario relating to different aspects of social media: privacy, cyberbullying, digital technologies, eLearning in schools, digital reputation, filtering, addiction to technology, sharing personal information, online gaming, social networking and unwanted contact.
Meanwhile the teachers met separately with Mr Greg Gebhart who gave a comprehensive overview of how his office can assist schools. Ms Leanne Newson, Parliament of Victoria, also outlined how her office can aid schools in areas of Civics and Citizenship as well as History.
The reporting back session in the afternoon was chaired by Ms Nina Springle, Member of the Legislative Council. During the soap box session, students had an opportunity to speak in response to the group reports. It was difficult for our Member, Cohen Pedruco, to catch the Speaker’s eye but he managed to get in his minute’s intervention just before the Speaker closed the session.
The House then voted on each of the ten scenarios which are listed below for your consideration too. Interestingly, only two were passed. Which do you suppose they were? [See end.]
1. All social media should be “supervised” by the government. The authorities should be able to see and read everyone’s messages.
2. It is proposed that funds that have been previously committed to traditional anti-bullying programs and projects now be directed exclusively to cyberbullying.
3. $33 million will be allocated from the education budget to provide each student in Victorian Schools with a digital device to learn to code.
4. Learning about social media will be a compulsory subject in all schools.
5. Employers will not be able to use any information about a prospective employee taken from their social media when making a decision about their employability (e.g. photos, comments they made, groups they joined, etc.).
6. All families identified by the census as having children under the age of 15 will be provided a compulsory filter to be applied to their home internet service.
7. To deal with the issue of online addiction there will be a compulsory limit of two hours per day playing time introduced on any online game or mobile application.
8. Currently, to post and share images, comments and stories about or by children and young people under 18, parental consent is required. It is proposed that this age limit be lowered to 10.
9. It is proposed that all online games be removed from the devices of children under 18 as they distract their learning.
10. All social media is to be managed by parents of children under the age of 15. Who they talk to, which groups they join and what they publish must be approved by an adult.
Michael and Cohen later noted that while most students voted for stricter controls on access to social media for children under 12, many already have easy access.
To close the day, the Hon Nick Wakeling MP (Shadow Minister for Education) congratulated the students on their participation and reminded them that future members of the House might well come from among them!
Brother Paul Toohey FSC
The Students’ Parliamentary Convention accepted scenarios 4 and 5; the others were rejected.
Year 6 Art
Below are some photos from Mr Happ’s Art class with the Year 6 students in Week 8. It was wonderful to walk in and see the boys so engaged in their work and producing incredible work!
Ms Nicole Jones
Year 6 Teacher