Renee Watts, Amelia McCarthy, Clarence MP Steve Cansdell, Lachlan Kilby and Jorja Armstrong at Parliament House in Sydney.
Renee Watts, Amelia McCarthy, Clarence MP Steve Cansdell, Lachlan Kilby and Jorja Armstrong at Parliament House in Sydney.

Teens get taste of political life

THEY may not be old enough to vote, but for four students from the Clarence electorate the opportunity to act as politicians in NSW Parliament was one not to be missed.

The YMCA NSW Youth Parliament hosted a series of live debates in the Legislative Assembly this week and invited 90 students from across the state to debate bills in their chosen portfolios.

Lachlan Kilby, Jorja Armstrong, Renee Watts and Amelia McCarthy represented the Clarence electorate in Sydney.

The first student to officially sit for Youth Parliament was Maclean High School student Amelia McCarthy.

At 15 years of age, Amelia was the youngest Clarence student to attend and she sat on the Transport and Infrastructure Committee, debating a new bill to propose bicycle registration.

The bill proposed the development and improvement of cycling infrastructure and the education of cyclists to prevent accidents. However, the bill did not pass.

Despite being nervous at first, Amelia said the experience was very interesting and she gained a lot of confidence.

“I love doing new things and taking new opportunities,” she said.

“I’ve found out how government works, and improved my confidence and public speaking skills. It was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”

Amelia was followed by fellow Maclean High student Renee Watts, 16, who was debating on behalf of the Women’s Affairs Committee for an equal pay bill, aimed at diminishing the pay gap between men and women.

Although she admitted being a politician was not something she saw herself doing in the future, Renee said the experience was “amazing”.

“I had no knowledge of parliamentary procedures but now I know what happens with the procedures and the policies; it is pretty spectacular,” she said.

Jorja Armstrong, a South Grafton High School student, was acting as the Minister for Youth and said she volunteered for the role because she wanted to get involved in the political process.

“It was an opportunity for me to experience parliament and visit prestigious places like Government House and the Legislative Assembly,” Jorja said.

Jorja and her team will today debate a domestic violence education bill.

The bill proposes a two-hour education program for students in Years 5 to 9, with the aim of reducing and preventing domestic violence by identifying and reporting it.

Clarence Valley Anglican School student Lachlan Kilby, 18, acted as the Minister for Climate Change and Environment, and said the experience was not what he expected.

“To be honest, I knew nothing about the program but I thought why not? The experience has been a total surprise,” Lachlan said.

“It’s actually been a character- building experience, I’m a better person now I’ve done the program.”

Lachlan said having a better understanding of the process had also restored his faith in the political system.

He will debate a bill for mandatory photovoltaic systems, proposing all new buildings, renovations and extensions be fitted with solar electricity systems. The bill aims to reduce the dependence of NSW on fossil fuels, and as such reduce the carbon footprint of the state, promote environmental sustainability and awareness throughout the state.

Member for Clarence Stave Cansdell has been on hand to assist the students, providing some valuable tips and insights into NSW Parliament.

The debates began yesterday and conclude today.



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