Year 11 student Madeleine Huynh elected Minister for Education in the Youth Legislative Assembly

Madeleine Huynh is passionate about politics. In 2016 she was at the frontline of debating public policy in the NSW Youth Parliament. She shares with us her experience of being on the floor of Parliament.

Politics and public policy is a passion of mine. I do strongly believe, however, that our political system isolates marginalised groups, including young people, limiting our opportunity to have a say. I also believe that change doesn’t really happen in Parliament, rather in our communities. Change happens when people come together to build strong social movements in support of shared ideas. This is why I believe the NSW Youth Parliament is so fundamentally crucial to creating the future young people want to see. I am incredibly humbled to have represented my electorate of Sydney in the Youth Legislative Assembly as the Youth Member for Sydney over the past few months. Never have I ever before felt as empowered as I did debating in the oldest chamber in Australia, to speak up and to speak out, while broadening my perspective on a wide range of issues and learning from my peers. The program is apolitical—so we stepped aside from the politics and we focused on creating policies and becoming the best advocates for our communities. The program involves two camps: a training camp and a residential camp. Between the camps we worked together in our committees, scheduled meetings with MPs who guided us with our Bill writing and eventually wrote our Bills and reports, ready to be debated when we arrived at State Parliament for our four sitting days. I was thrilled to be elected into the position of Minister for Education in the Youth Legislative Assembly, where I led a wonderful committee in writing a Bill that aimed to improve the current Reading Recovery program and the literacy standards of NSW. Committees ranged from those investigating women’s affairs, to domestic violence, mental health, multiculturalism, congestion in the CBD, LGBQTI affairs, and drugs and alcohol. We also debated MPIs, which were not Bills, but rather matters of public importance. In our cabinet and party meetings in the evenings, we would decide upon an issue we felt needed to be addressed and wanted to discuss in the chamber. The MPIs we debated were to ban offshore processing, to ban coal seam gas and to legalise euthanasia, some of which were incredibly thought-provoking and provided me with the opportunity to develop my personal opinion on the issues. Some of my highlights included the beautiful opening ceremony at Government House where I met His Excellency General The Honourable David Hurley and even broke out into song with Mrs Hurley! I also enjoyed meeting MPs who were the speakers for some of the debates, including Shadow Minster for Education Jihad Dib, my local MP Alex Greenwich and Premier Mike Baird, who listened to the Treasury Report and came in for a quick chat. My Youth Parliament experience has showed me the power of our generation. Since the beginning of the program, half a dozen Bills and reports written by students have been implemented into official State legislation, including two clauses from the Domestic Violence Disclosure Scheme created in 2015. There are so many things young people can do to influence change. We can research issues we care about, and pressure politicians and policy-makers. We live in such an exciting time where we literally have the entire world at our fingertips, but at times with petty political technicalities it can feel like our voices mean nothing. You only have to look at any past movement to realise that one voice can make a difference.

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